By Cody Soto
Six games remain in the regular season for No. 17 Baylor softball, and the Bears are trying to make the final push in order to have a chance to host first and second rounds in Waco.
Baylor sits in second place in conference standings, and with a strong finish in the next few weeks, the Bears can head into the postseason strong.
“I think we’re in the position to host still. We need to finish real strong though to do that,” head coach Glenn Moore said. “We need to win nearly all of them to be in a good position to host. These are games we can win, but we must bring our best effort every game.”
The Bears won a three-game series over Iowa State last weekend but failed to bring in an extra run in the team’s 2-1 loss to UTSA on Wednesday night. So many runners have been left on base, and that needs to change.
“We hit the ball well, and we had a line drives caught, but we didn’t have timely hits,” senior rightfielder Kaitlyn Thumann said. “That’s what ended up losing the game for us. We couldn’t get across the plate.”
Although the Bears have had problems converting hits into runs, there are several aspects of the game that Baylor is performing well. The bulk of the success can be attributed to Thumann and senior shortstop Jordan Strickland.
Both seniors have provided Baylor softball with dynamic offense and defense over the past few years, and the duo has shown different strengths in the 2015 season.
Thumann was 3-for-5 from the plate in the team’s loss to UTSA, including a big double in the seventh inning that set up the Bears in a good position to score. Strickland, on the other hand, has struggled offensively this season. She has shined in her shortstop position, taking out several players with her strong throws to first base from across the field.
The two seniors have had the difficult task of leading a relatively young team this season, pushing their envelopes to the brink. The team has had great triumphs, including wins over then-No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 16 Arizona. In all three games, the Bears fired away from behind the plate and took control of the situation.
However, in losses to then-No. 9 Louisiana Lafayette, No. 7 UCLA and Iowa State, the offense just stalled. When Baylor is on a role, the team can beat any team. But when the team is struggling at bat and on base, there’s a big chance the Bears will come away empty handed every time.
“The seniors are doing their job,” Moore said. “They’re doing a good job. It really boils down to timely hitting. Right now, I’m happy with what the seniors are doing for us. They’re making good plays and playing a good ballgame for us, and the rest of the team has got to follow.”
Does Baylor have the ability to finish the season strong? Yes. There have been large stretches in the season where the Bears have held their own against any opponent.
“We’re in a good position,” Moore said. “We’ve fought hard to be in this position, and we need to take advantage of it. Ari and Shelby are leading the case, and I like what they’re doing.”
But is there a chance that Baylor will not host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Softball Championships? Yes. The Bears can prevent that from happening, and that will begin with winning the next six games against Big 12 opponents.
“We need to win out; we can’t afford to lose any conference games right now,” sophomore second baseman Ari Hawkins said.
Baylor faces Kansas at 5 p.m. today in Lawrence, Kan. Games two and three are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday.