UL Softball Preview: Baylor
The 25th-ranked Louisiana Ragin' Cajun softball team will take on the 12th-ranked Baylor Bears on Friday at 5 pm, in their second game of the Gulfport College Classic in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Baylor will head into the Gulfport College Classic with an overall record of 12-3, prior to their doubleheader with Southern Miss on Wednesday, with wins over San Diego, UC-Davis, UNLV, Arkansas, UAB, Drake, Iowa, Stanford, California, and Northwestern, along with two wins against Missouri, while suffering loses to Washington, Lipscomb, and Cal State-Fullerton.
The Bears are hitting a .327 as a team, with 15 homers, 74 RBI's, and 22 stolen bases.
Offensively, Baylor is led by junior outfielder Kaitlyn Thurman, who is hitting an impressive .417, along with two homers, five RBI's, and five stolen bases.
A second-team All-Big 12 selection in 2013, Thurman sets the tables as the leadoff hitter for Baylor, with a .517 on-base percentage.
Senior catcher Clare Hosack is second on the team in hitting, at a .368, along with three homers, and a team-leading 16 runs batted in.
The rest Baylor's line-up is similar to Thurman, in that it has some power, but is more likely to beat you by getting on base, putting the bat on the ball, and getting clutch hits.
As a team in 2014, the Bears have a team on-base percentage of .397, with 41 walks, to go along with only 45 team strikeouts.
The Bears sport seven players in their line-up that have an on-base percentage that is better than .300, including six at a .387, or better.
Baylor has the type of line-up that can frustrate the opposition, taking pitches, and rarely getting themselves out.
If UL is going to hold down the Bears, they have to stay away from walks, and not let Baylor get comfortable at the plate, working the count, and making the pitchers make mistakes.
Pitching-wise, Baylor brings in a sparkling overall team ERA. of 1.37 into the tournament.
Senior left-hander Whitney Canion, an All-American candidate, and the all-time wins leader at Baylor, is 7-2, with a 1.10 ERA.
Canion, who has 65 strikeouts in 57.1 innings, is one of the best pitchers in the country, and will be tough to beat, if she's at the top of her game.
Sophomore right-hander Heather Stearns has been a solid compliment to Canion, compiling an overall record of 5-1, with a 1.62 ERA., along with 23 strikeouts in 23 innings of work.
Right-hander Liz Paul is another option that the Bears have inside the circle. The senior hasn't started a game yet, but has appeared in eight games, compiling a 2.25 ERA. over 18.2 innings.
Baylor has all the pieces in place to have a great year. They have a solid offense, top to bottom, along with a good defense, and a terrific pitching staff, led by an All-American candidate.
The Bears, a member of the Big XXII, are not only a team that is certain to make an NCAA Regional, but are also a legitimate Women's College World Series candidate. They are the most talented team the Cajuns will play in Gulfport, and one of the better teams that UL will play all year, on a schedule that is packed with heavyweights.
Louisiana will play twice on Friday, against UTSA (11 am) and Baylor (5 pm), twice more on Saturday, against Chattanooga (2:30 pm) and Ohio (5:30 pm), and once on Sunday, against Memphis (10:30 am).
You can hear all of the UL games on Sports Radio ESPN 1420 & espn1420.com, beginning with the pre-game show 15 minutes prior to first-pitch for each game.