May 18, 2014
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WACO, Texas - It took 305 pitches, but sixth-year senior left-handed pitcher Whitney Canion willed Baylor Softball to its fifth trip to an NCAA Super Regional with an epic performance on the mound Sunday at Getterman Stadium. Canion surrendered a walkoff home run in the bottom of the 11th inning as Tulsa took game on of the Waco Regional Championship 1-0 before coming back to lift the Lady Bears (45-14) to a 3-1 victory to clinch a spot in the next round.
Canion threw 175 pitches in the first-game loss matching Tulsa (53-9) starter Aimee Creger pitch-for-pitch, but Catherine Hoerner's solo home run over the leftfield wall forced the if-necessary game with one out in the bottom of the 11th.
In what might have surprised many at Getterman Stadium Sunday, Baylor head coach Glenn Moore's lineup for the final game of the tournament had No. 11 back in the circle.
Canion gave up a run in the top of the first inning when Jill Barrett singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a flyout and then came to score on Erica Sampson's RBI single to give the Golden Hurricane their only run.
From there, she completed the game scattering eight hits, walked just one and struck out nine to improve to 29-10 on the season. All in all Canion threw 17.1 innings, allowed 14 hits, two runs, walked two and struck out 19 in the two games vs. Tulsa.
"I don't think I've ever seen a pitcher do what Whitney Canion did. I don't know how, but it was amazing. The team saw that and they rallied behind her. We got what we needed from her, but she gave more," said Baylor head coach Glenn Moore. "I wanted her to go two or three more innings [in the second game]. I didn't want to start someone else and her get stiff. Whatever was left I wanted to use it. She just kept going like the Energizer bunny."
Kaitlyn Thumann matched a season-high with her 24th-straight game to reach when she was hit by a pitch to begin the bottom of the first. Ari Hawkins doubled on the next at bat and Holly Holl later drove home Thumann with a sacrifice fly to knot the score at one apiece.
From there, Baylor's Sarah Smith provided the game-winning run in the bottom of the second with her first career postseason homer and sixth of the season when she hit a first-pitch ball over the leftfield fence off Tulsa starter Caitlin Sill.
"We needed a lot more than a boost. We felt like this is Whitney's home, and we didn't want to leave her out on the field after she threw all those innings," Smith said. "We wanted to bear down and not let them win. I liked the first pitch she threw, and it looked like a beach ball and I hit it."
Smith's home run also helped Baylor tie the single-season record for most home runs with the team's 68th. The 2006 squad also hit 68 home runs in 60 games.
Baylor added an insurance run in the fourth inning when Hawkins hit her second double of the game to drive home Lindsey Cargill.
Tulsa threatened in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out, but Canion struck out Haley Henshaw on the ninth pitch of the at bat for the second out and Barrett grounded out to Holly Holl to end the threat. In the seventh, Canion closed the door in order striking out Shelby Blanton, Sampson fouled out to the catcher, and Horner lined out to rightfield to end the game.
"Coach [Moore] asked me if I was ready to go and my heart told me yes. I started the game doubting myself when they scored the first run in the first inning," said Canion. "Once I went out there and threw in the game I felt like I was fine. I never thought about the pitch count or inning. I just took it one inning at a time. I thought this team behind me made some great plays and kept telling me to fight."
Canion, in the postgame press conference, pointed to the 2011 season when Baylor advanced out of Athens, Ga. vs. the Bulldogs to go to the Women's College World Series. Canion pitched twice May 29, 2011 bouncing back from an ugly 14-2 loss to Georgia to lead Baylor to a 9-2 win in game two.
Baylor and Georgia's fates may cross again. At the conclusion of Baylor's win over Tulsa, the Lady Bears await the result fo the Athens, Ga. Regional to determine the site and opponent of their Super Regional round. If North Carolina State is able to pick up one win in two games over the Bulldogs, the Wolfpack would come to Waco, however, if Georgia beats NC State twice, the Lady Bears would head to Athens, Ga. this week.
"We are pulling for them (Georgia) to get beat because we want to host," Moore said. "That's the only way we can, so we are pulling for North Carolina State."
- Whitney Canion's win in game two was the 14th win of her postseason career, the 29th of 2014 and her 121st career victory.
- Canion's 10 strikeouts in the game one loss marked the 11th time this season she's had double-digit strikeouts.
- Sarah Smith had her 12th multi-hit game of the season in the game one loss.
- Smith's home run in the second inning of game two was the sixth of the season for the sophomore and her first career postseason home run.
- Smith's home run helped Baylor tie a single-season record for home runs in a season with the team's 68th (2006).
- Lindsey Cargill's two-hit game in game one gave her 10 multi-hit games on the season.
- Linsey Hays and Ari Hawkins each had two hits in the game two for Baylor giving them 17 and 18 games respectively with multiple hits this season.
- Kaitlyn Thumann reached base in both games to extend her on-base streak to 24 games, which matches a season high achieved the first 24 games of the season.
STAT OF THE GAME I
305 - Baylor's Whitney Canion threw 175 pitches in the first game and 130 in the second game.
STAT OF THE GAME II
5 - In each of the first five innings of Baylor's 3-1 win in game two, the Lady Bears' leadoff hitter reached base, and three times that runner came around to score.
THEY SAID IT
Glenn Moore on Baylor's performance in game two ...
"What I liked was the way we came out in the first inning. I thought we came out and said we aren't going to be denied. This is our park, and we are going to win this ballgame. It didn't stay that way. We didn't keep our foot on the gas pedal. We set the tone early that we were going to control the game. The only time I really felt threatened was when they had the bases loaded, but we came through that. We were still throwing pitches and getting good results. It was a fun game and a tough one."
Baylor awaits the winner of the Athens, Georgia regional where NC State and Georgia will battle to advance. If Georgia wins, Baylor would head to Athens, but if NC State wins, the Wolfpack would come to Waco. The Super Regional could start as early as Thursday or late as Saturday.