May 28, 2014
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma - In 2007, Baylor made its first appearance at the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City and left with one win. The Lady Bears got back in 2011 and took it a step further with two wins and a semi-finals appearance. Thursday, Baylor prepares to make an even bigger impact kicking off the 2014 WCWS with Florida at 11 a.m. on ESPN.
Baylor emerged out of the Waco Regional before sweeping through the Athens, Georgia Super Regional round beating the Georgia Bulldogs in two games. The Lady Bears carry a 47-14 record into the WCWS and act as the No. 13 seed.
The Florida Gators, out of the Southeastern Conference, enter play with a 50-12 record and advanced through Gainesville, Fla. in each round to reach the WCWS. The Gators played Washington in the best-of-three series and took down the No. 9-seeded Huskies in the final game of the three-game series to reach OKC, and the Gators serve as the No. 5 seed.
Baylor and Florida have played eight times in the series history with the Lady Bears leading 6-2, but the last time came in 2009. As an interesting twist, Baylor's sixth-year senior and left-handed pitcher Whitney Canion began her collegiate career in Gainesville, Fla. against the Gators in a three-game series the last time the two schools met
Despite falling in the first game, and Baylor dropping the first two overall, Canion tossed a shutout Feb. 8, 2009 against No. 1-ranked Florida for her first collegiate win.
"Canion's really good, and she's always been really good. We've watched a lot of film on her and she'll be a tough one to crack," said Florida head coach Tim Walton.
Baylor won't have a pushover with Florida's expected starter either, with Hannah Rogers on the mound for the Gators. Rogers, the senior righty, comes into the WCWS with a 26-8 record and a 1.68 ERA, and she is a three-time all-American.
Coincidentally, both Canion and Rogers have 123 career wins apiece headed into Thursday's game.
Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said in Wednesday's press conference that Florida had a strong offensive lineup to compliment Rogers.
"It's a great lineup. It's a typical Tim Walton lineup capable of putting up a lot of runs," Moore said. "We've done our best to put together the strongest schedule possible to get our kids ready for this time of the year, and I think they're prepared for what's ahead."
The Gators carry a .312 batting average with 83 home runs with Kelsey Stewart leading the team with a .435 batting average and 66 RBI while Lauren Haegar leads the team with 20 home runs.
Baylor is hitting .305 coming into the WCWS with 71 home runs, which is a school record passing the 2006 team's mark of 68. Linsey Hays leads Baylor with 13 homers and 48 RBI while Kaitlyn Thumann leads the team with a .387 batting average and a .500 on-base percentage.
Pam Ward and Michele Smith will have the call on ESPN while Baylor will air the games on the radio on 1660 ESPN Central Texas.
The winner of Baylor and Florida will play the winner of Oregon and Florida State Friday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 while the losers will play in the first elimination game Saturday at 11 a.m. on ESPN2.