Kansas faces speedy Baylor team in Waco, Texas
- Apr. 5, 2012
- 0 Comments
It’s well known that Big 12 softball showcases as much talent as any conference in the country. Just ask the Kansas softball team.
For the fourth consecutive weekend, Kansas (23-10, 02-7) squares off against a 2011 Women’s College World Series participant when it faces No. 22 Baylor (24-12, 1-7) in a three-game series in Waco, Texas.
On paper, though, Kansas likes the matchup this weekend. Both teams rely on solid pitching and defense, speed on the base paths and timely hitting.
“It’s going to be real low-scoring games, real close games,” said junior shortstop Mariah Montgomery. “It’s a series we’re definitely going in scraping and clawing.”
Baylor’s offensive stats do not jump off the page, but its pitching numbers do.
Baylor’s batters rank second to last in the conference with eight home runs on the year, a step below Kansas’ 20. The team has knocked in a total of 100 runs, 38 less than Kansas, and yet Baylor won a 1-0 game against then No. 7 Oklahoma two weeks ago.
The Baylor pitching staff’s 1.59 ERA continues to keep them in games, despite losing All-American junior pitcher Whitney Canion to a torn ACL in late February.
Both teams will look to create runs and Kansas’ coach Megan Smith knows Baylor makes up for its lack of power with its speedy, aggressive approach on the base paths.
“Baylor is really scrappy offensively,” Smith said. “They’re quick, they do a lot of short game, they run a ton. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”
Baylor’s 57 stolen bases in 64 attempts rank second in the conference, led by junior Kathy Shelton, who is a perfect 19-for-19.
Kansas sophomore infielder Ashley Newman, who is a perfect 18-for-18 in stolen bases, will need to provide a similar spark for Kansas.
Smith said Baylor’s team resembles an Oklahoma State team Kansas faced two weeks ago. Kansas won two of three games against OSU.
For Kansas, one of the biggest keys will be limiting first-inning runs that have plagued them in recent outings. In 11 games since conference play started, Kansas has allowed at least one run in eight of those games, finishing 3-8 in that span.
Freshman infielder Maddie Stein, who finished 2-for-3 in last weekend’s series finale against Oklahoma, acknowledged the need to limit early runs.
“I think it might put a little more pressure on,” said freshman infielder Maddie Stein of giving up first-inning runs. “But we have a stout defense and pitching staff so when we score we have no doubt they’re going to hold what we’ve got going.”
This weekend’s series will surely be a factor in Kansas’ ultimate goal of reaching NCAA Regionals when the regular season comes to an end.
Every game counts, but especially those series that are not against Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri – all teams with five or fewer losses on the season – figure to weigh heavily in the selection process in May.
“We need a good showing down there,” Smith said. “This one’s big for us.”
Kansas will play a doubleheader Friday night beginning at 4 p.m. and conclude with one game on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Edited by Anna Allen