RIVALRY RENEWAL: After 7-0 Win Over Arizona, Lady Bears Playing A&MMay 18, 2013
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Glenn Moore couldn't help but notice the absence of Big 12 flags hanging on the outfield wall at the Aggie Softball Complex.
With Texas A&M's move to the Southeastern Conference, the flags of Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma have been replaced by LSU, Florida and Alabama.
"It's still a little sad to me, because A&M's a great program and made our conference better by being there," Moore said. "But it is what it is. You move forward, and we're probably going to see a lot of each other in regionals in all our sports."
After blasting traditional power Arizona, 7-0, on Friday behind Whitney Canion's fifth complete-game shutout, Moore's 18th-ranked softball team (40-15) will get first shot at the Aggies (40-15) in Saturday's 2 p.m. second-round game at the College Station Regional.
"(Texas A&M coach Jo Evans) knows our players as well as we know theirs," said Moore, whose team was swept by the Aggies in three games last season. "Our kids have played on the same teams and know each other, and some are like sisters. But when you get between the lines, all that's off and you go try to win a ballgame and advance."
Despite facing a tradition-rich Arizona program that has won eight national championships and been to the World Series 22 times in the last 27 years, the Lady Bears breezed through the opening round after exploding for four first-inning runs off starter Shelby Babcock (16-11).
"Babs wanted the ball, and we gave her the ball, but she just couldn't execute," Arizona coach Mike Candrea said of Babcock, who walked the first three batters of the game before giving up RBI hits to Linsey Hays and Jordan Strickland. "When you get three walks, and you're behind 4-0, it really changes the complexion of the game."
Canion saw home-plate umpire Steve Arnold's tight strike zone in the top of the first, when she gave up a two-out single to Chelsea Goodacre and went to a 3-1 count on cleanup hitter Brigette Del Pote before ending the inning with a strikeout.
"I think we could see the zone was tight," said senior center fielder Kathy Shelton, who led off the bottom of the first inning with the first of her three walks. "And when you see that, you're a lot more selective about the pitches you swing at. I think we took advantage of that in the first inning and put up four runs."
After Babcock walked Shelton, Holly Holl and Kaitlyn Thumann on a total of 15 pitches, Shelton scored the game's first run on a slow roller to short by Sarah Smith.
"I could hear Coach Moore telling me to get in there fast," Shelton said, "so luckily I was safe."
Hays followed with a single off the wall in left-center field and Strickland broke it open with a two-run single through the left side that plated Thumann and Smith for a 4-0 lead. Canion moved the runners up with just her second sac bunt of the year, but reliever Nancy Bowling got out of it without any additional damage.
Canion settled in to have "one of her better outings against a good offensive lineup," Moore said, shutting down the Wildcats (34-23) on six hits and no walks with seven strikeouts.
"I thought my off-speed really kept me in the game and kept them thinking," said Canion, who improved to 24-8 for the year with her 92nd career victory.
Candrea, whose team faced Canion two years ago, said the redshirt junior pitcher's velocity seemed to be a little down, "but she's battle-tested and competes and throws good pitches when she needs to."
"The first time through the order, she didn't really use her off-speed pitch much," Candrea said. "And the second time around, she started throwing it. That's the sign of an experienced young lady that's battle-tested."
Canion's biggest test came in the top of the second inning, when the Wildcats loaded the bases with only one out. After three consecutive singles, but only one that reached the outfield grass, Canion got a runner at the plate on a comebacker from Alex Lavine and then worked out of the jam with Hallie Wilson's fielder's choice grounder to second.
"You don't do that often against a team like Arizona," Moore said. "I think it's a credit to our defense, but more importantly give credit to Whitney. She's one of the best pitchers in the country, and the country knows that."
That seemed to be particularly deflating for Arizona, which had not lost a first-round game in a regional since 2004. Canion retired 12 in a row before hitting Goodacre on the foot in the sixth.
"I could definitely relax, but not too much," Canion said of the 4-0 lead she was handed in the first inning. "You saw his strike zone - it seemed to get tighter and tighter. So I knew I just had to go out there and work ahead, because if I get behind, then I'm pressing too hard on pitches and trying to aim. My thought process the whole game was just trying to get that first-pitch strike."
The Lady Bears tacked on a run in the fourth, when Shelton drew a one-out walk, stole second and eventually scored on a wild pitch. And then Holl broke it open with a two-run blast over the wall in left-center, tying for the team lead with her fifth homer of the season.
"I guess it was maybe outside and a little high, I don't know. But it looked good, so I swung," Holl said. Asked if she thought it was out of the park, Holl said, "When you're used to playing in Getterman, you never really know. But this is a hitter's field, so I thought that one was good."
Hays had two of Baylor's four hits, while Holl and Strickland collected two RBI apiece. Perez went 2-for-3 to pace Arizona's six-hit attack, but half of the Wildcats' hits didn't get out of the infield.
"Postseason really gets you going," Canion said. "There's no school, it's just softball. This is what we live for. You came to Baylor for this. I have nothing to worry about except playing softball. We were really pumped up today, but also it's just postseason, and we're ready to get going back to the World Series."
A&M pitchers Mel Dumezich and Lauren Ainsley combined on a one-hitter as the Aggies opened up with a 12-0, run-rule victory over Penn in Friday's other opening-round game. Cassie Tysarczyk blasted a three-run homer in a five-run first inning and all-time home run leader Megan May (65) added a two-run shot in a five-run second.
"I think the rivalry is still there, even if they're not in our conference," Shelton said. "They're a tough team, so I think it will be a great game."
In the rest of Saturday's schedule, Arizona plays Penn (30-18) in an elimination game, while the winner of that game faces the Baylor-A&M loser at 7 p.m. Sunday's championship game is set for 2:30 p.m., with an if-necessary game to follow at 5.
Here is a link to the boxscore from Friday's Baylor-Arizona softball game.
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