#11 Baylor Softball 2015 Preview

Baylor Bears

Overall Rank: #11
Conference Rank: #2 Big 12
#11 Baylor Softball 2015 Preview
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Baylor had one of the more dynamic offenses in all of college softball in 2014 and they rode that, along with the arm of veteran pitcher Whitney Canion, all the way to the final four of the Women’s College World Series. The task of replacing a pitcher in the circle like Canion will not be easy. However, the core of the explosive offense from 2014 returns and that should be enough to keep the Bears in the Women’s College World Series conversation all season long.

2014: 49-16, 13-5
2014 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Glenn Moore

Field Players:
Outfielder Kaitlyn Thumann will set the tone for this very explosive Baylor offense in 2015. Thumann hit .373 and can beat with you her power and speed, hitting eight homeruns and stealing 16 bases last season. Infielder Jordan Strickland will lead the way power wise. She hit 14 homeruns and drove in 49 runs last season. Outfielder Linsey Hays is another very lethal bat in the Bears lineup and she batted .344 last season with 13 homeruns and 49 runs batted in. Bottom line is that this offense is going to be very difficult to slow down.

Heather Stearns will be the frontrunner to step into the number one spot in the circle and take on the task of replacing Whitney Canion. Canion was 31-12 last season for Baylor and her ability to take over a game was a big reason why the Bears made it to Oklahoma City. Stearns did a nice job when she was given the ball last season, ending the year at 15-4 with a 2.06 earned run average. In addition, Stearns has a similar ability as Canion to take over a game with strikeouts, while limiting walks. Stearns walked just 34 batters in 115. 2 innings pitched, while striking out 131. You could also see Brooke Seneshen and Sarah Beth Toben get in the mix for Baylor on the mound. They will need a solid number two starter during the course of the season.

Who to Watch:
Infielder Ari Hawkins had an outstanding freshman season in 2014 for the Bears offensively. Hawkins hit. 365 with four homeruns, 25 runs batted in and also stole 20 bases. The ability of Hawkins to get that extra base puts tremendous pressure on opposing pitchers to not make mistakes against Baylor offensively in order to avoid big innings.  Also, keep an eye on Infielder Sarah Smith, who quietly put up a strong 2014 season. She hit .342 and is very disciplined at the plate, drawing 32 walks while only striking out 19 times.

Final Projection:
Wichita State will be a great test for the Bears right off the bat in game one of the season. The schedule then really begins to heat up the following weekend when Oregon and Tulsa visit Waco in the Baylor Invitational. The Judy Garman Classic will not be easy either as Baylor will battle Arizona State and Arizona in that tournament, along with a single game after the tournament at UCLA. Houston will also provide a stiff test for the Bears in a midweek doubleheader on March 17th in Waco. A key series at Louisiana against the Ragin’ Cajuns will be a potential series that could decide who hosts a regional and who does not this season. The conference schedule has most of the tough games on the road with trips to Norman to play Oklahoma and two of the three games with Texas taking place in Austin. There is too much offensively returning this season for the Bears not to be able to outscore their fair share of teams. This should be at minimum a Super Regional team that, as long as they pitch well enough, can make it back to Oklahoma City.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Kaitlyn Thumann, OF, 204
Hits: Kaitlyn Thumann, OF, 76
Home Runs: Jordan Strickland, IF, 14
RBIs: Linsey Hays, OF, 49; Jordan Strickland, IF, 49
Runs: Kaitlyn Thumann, OF, 60
Stolen Bases: Ari Hawkins, IF, 20

Wins: Heather Stearns, P, 15
Innings Pitched: Heather Stearns, P, 115.2
Strikeouts: Heather Stearns, P, 131
Complete Games: Heather Stearns, P, 6

Madness 2015 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#46 Caitlin Charlton


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