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'NOT TIME TO CELEBRATE': After 9-1 Rout, Lady Bears One Win From Series

May 24, 2014

By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider

ATHENS, Ga. - No pun intended, but there was no dog pile or delirious celebration at the end of the end of the Baylor softball team's 9-1 rout of the fourth-seeded Georgia Bulldogs in Friday's Super Regional opener at Jack Turner Stadium.

"It's not time to celebrate," said a stoic Glenn Moore, whose 13th-seeded Lady Bears (46-14) are now just one win away from advancing to the Women's College World Series for the third time in program history and second in the last four years. "We're halfway there. This is not our first rodeo, either. We've been there a few times, and they know that there's more business to be taken care of; and there's a lot of work ahead of us."

Whitney Canion (30-10) tossed a two-hitter with six strikeouts and just one walk in the shortened six-inning game to pick up her 15th postseason victory and got more than enough support with a four-run outburst in the first inning.

Sarah Smith, who was 3-for-3 and finished a triple shy of the cycle, blasted a three-run home run just inside the left-field foul pole off Georgia starter and loser Chelsea Wilkerson (33-9). It was the sophomore third baseman's seventh homer of the season, second career postseason blast and the Lady Bears' school-record 69th of the year.

"That first inning, I think we set the tone for the whole game," Smith said. "I knew it was out, but I thought it was foul. When I first hit it, I was like, 'Aww!' I kind of trotted and watched, and then the wind blew it. And I was like, 'Wait, wait, wait a second, it might be in.'''

Five days after throwing 305 pitches in a marathon Championship Sunday at the Waco Regional, Canion had to feel like this one was more like a walk in the park. She sat down 16 batters in a row after a triple and walk in the bottom of the first before Alex Hugo ended the shutout bid with a solo homer in the sixth.

"It was frustrating, but the infield came in and said, 'That's why we had nine (runs),''' she said. "Really, I was just trying to go out there and get outs. . . . I was just going to try to go right at hitters. And I think I did that the whole game."

Wilkerson, who tossed her third career no-hitter in Sunday's 8-0 decisive championship game of the Athens Regional, got into trouble with a leadoff walk by Kaitlyn Thumann in the top of the first. After moving to second on a sac bunt by Ari Hawkins, Thumann came all the way around to score when Georgia first baseman Geri Ann Glasco booted a soft grounder by Holly Holl and deflected it into the outfield grass.

Making her first plate appearance at this stadium since suffering four fractures in her face at the 2011 Super Regional, Baylor senior catcher Clare Hosack was hit by an inside pitch. Wilkerson fanned Linsey Hays for the second out, but Smith hit a towering shot that sailed over the left-field wall and just inside the foul pole for a 4-0 lead.

"It looked like it was drifting that way (toward the foul pole), and typically when a righty hits a ball, it will hook a little bit," Moore said. "My golf ball does that a lot. But she must have a little slice on that one. It did look like it was going foul, but it wasn't really that close. It landed about 10 to 12 feet (fair)."

The Bulldogs threatened in the bottom of the first when Hugo tripled off the wall in left. Glasco followed with a walk to put runners on the corner with only one out, but Canion struck out cleanup hitter Tina Iosefa and then induced a fly ball to the warning track that freshman center fielder Lindsey Cargill hauled in for the final out.

"It was a big relief, because I usually struggle with those," Cargill said. "I just wanted to get the ball and get them out so that Whit didn't have to stay out there that long."

Baylor tacked on two more runs in the third, when Hawkins led off with a first-pitch single to left and scored on an RBI double by Holl in the right-center field gap. Holl, who moved up on the throw to the plate, scored on a wild pitch, extending the lead to 6-0.

"She's locked-in," Moore said of Holl. "You look at her average (.278), and you think, 'Why is she hitting in the 3-hole compared to the rest of them?' But if you go back the last 15 or 20 games and take those stats, her average is pretty phenomenal. She's the hitter she's capable of being, and she has been for the last couple of weeks."

Wilkerson seemed to find her groove, putting up back-to-back zeroes and retiring seven of eight batters going into the sixth. But two batters into what turned out to be the final frame, she was gone.

Smith led off the inning with a high-hop single over Georgia third baseman Bethany Beggs, and then Jordan Strickland won a nine-pitch battle with a two-run shot off the scoreboard in left field for an 8-0 lead.

Facing reliever Bekah Farris, the Lady Bears added an all-important insurance run when Hugo booted a grounder to second by Liz Paul. Cargill reached on a fielder's choice grounder that bounced off Farris and came around to score on Hawkins' two-out single to center.

"I felt like (Wilkerson) was on; she was mixing it up pretty good," said Smith, who tied a school single-game postseason record with her three-hit performance. "She was low, high, in, out. I just feel like it was our day."

Georgia never did figure out Canion. Mixing in her riseball with a nasty changeup, she pinpointed her pitches all day and struck out the side in the fourth. Outside of Hugo, a transfer from Kansas who was 2-for-3, the rest of the Bulldogs were a combined 0-for-17.

"We barreled all day," said Hugo, who tied a Georgia single-season record with her 24th home run. "We have good hitters all through the lineup. If we just stick to our game plan, I think good things will come."

After Canion got the first two outs in the sixth on pop-ups, Hugo blasted one well beyond the left-field wall to end the shutout bid for the Bulldogs' 92nd homer of the season. But Canion ended it five pitches later when Glasco grounded out weakly to second.

"You're pushing every pitch, because at any point . . . like you saw in the sixth with Hugo, all of them are great hitters," Canion said. "I thought I just kept mixing up well, and our defense was tremendous today."

In addition to her warning-track grab in the first, Cargill ran down a Kaylee Puiloa's gap to left-center in the second and then robbed Hugo with an ESPN SportsCenter-worthy catch in right-center for the final out in the third.

Baylor and Georgia will meet in the second game of the Super Regional at 11 a.m. CDT Saturday, with the Bulldogs needing to sweep a pair of games to make it to the World Series. A week ago, Georgia came out of the loser's bracket to sweep North Carolina State, 9-1 and 8-0.

"Our goal and our plan are to come out and fight hard for the crowd tomorrow," said 14th-year Georgia coach Lu Harris-Champer. "We've got our back against the wall, and generally come out strong when our back is against the wall."

Here is a link to the boxscore from Friday's Baylor-Georgia softball game.

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