Softball swamped by Gators attack in Women’s College World Series opener

Ari Hawkins beats a throw to first for a single during the first game against Florida in the Women’s Softball World Series May 29, 2014.

By Shehan Jeyarajah
Sports Editor

OKLAHOMA CITY – All day long, Baylor struggled in a way it had not struggled in years. Softball had not been run-ruled since the last game of the 2013 season. It had not lost a game by double-digits since this date three years ago.

But today was not Baylor’s day, and its weaknesses were exposed as the Bears suffered 11-0, five inning loss to the No. 5-seed Florida Gators in a nightmare opener to the 2014 Women’s College World Series.

Baylor made contact in the top of the first, and Ari Hawkins looked to have a chance at a double-play in the bottom of the first to end the inning, but an errant throw from sophomore third baseman Sarah Smith allowed runners to move to first and third with only one out. Florida third baseman Stephanie Tofft hit a sacrifice fly to center for the first run of the ballgame with two outs on the board.

Following a walk by left fielder Briana Little, right fielder Bailey Castro hit a double, but advanced to third on a misplaced throw that allowed two unearned runs for an early 3-0 Florida lead.

The top of the second did not go any better for Baylor. Senior catcher Clare Hosack looked to have a home run, but was robbed at the wall by left fielder Bailey Castro. Sophomore designated player Linsey Hays grounded out. In the next at-bat, Smith smashed a pitch off the leg of pitcher Hannah Rogers, but shortstop Katie Medina miraculously made a play and robbed Smith of a hit.

Whitney Canion pitches early in the first game against Florida in the Women’s College World Series on May 9, 2014, in Oklahoma City.

Senior pitcher Whitney Canion got back on track in the second inning by retiring three straight. Despite junior shortstop Jordan Strickland getting on base, Baylor once against failed to capitalize.

Canion once again showed chinks in the armor in the bottom of the third. With a 2-1 count, designated player Aubree Munro blasted a shot over the center field wall to extent the lead to 4-0. Following a double by Munro in the fourth, Baylor coach Glenn Moore decided he had enough and pulled Canion in favor of sophomore right-hander Heather Stearns. Stearns allowed an RBI single to second baseman Kelsey Stewart to push the lead to 5-0.

Stearns completley lost control of the game in the fifth inning. Designated player Lauren Haeger led off with a single and Tofft doubled down the right field line to put runners on second and third. Little added a single to load the bases with no outs on the board.

Pinch-hitter Justine McLean hit an RBI single and first baseman Taylor Schwarz drew a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch to push the lead to 7-0 with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth.

With a run-rule on the line, pinch-hitter Chelseas Herndon came to bat for Florida. Herndon and Stearns were teammates at Hebron High School in Lewisville, Texas, and the pitching standout took an early 1-2 lead in the count. Herndon then took a pitch and launched it over the center field wall to catapult Florida on to the winner’s bracket with a walk-off bases-loaded grand slam.

With the loss, Baylor will move to the loser’s bracket and play the loser of No. 1 Oregon and No. 8 Florida State. Texas A&M in 1983 and UCLA in 2003 are the only two teams in WCWS history to win the WCWS from the loser’s bracket.

Baylor will play at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning, with the game being broadcast live nationally on ESPN2.