#17 Baylor Softball Preview

Baylor Bears

Overall Rank: #17
Conference Rank: #4 Big 12
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Coming off the programs second trip to the Women’s College World Series and a semi-final finish, their best ever, the Baylor Bears are primed to try to make another run in Oklahoma City.  In 2012 Head Coach Glenn Moore leads a group of 12 letter winners into battle in a conference that sent four teams to the WCWS.  The Bears lose just two starters from a squad that has some impressive wins all on the road, including taking two of three from Arizona in Tucson, beating UCLA for the second straight year and securing a spot in the WCWS by winning the Super Regional series over Georgia in Athens.  Most of the offense and pitching staff returns, among this seasoned group is 2011 USA National Team Pitcher Whitney Canion.  Coach Moore commented about this year’s team, “I like the talent level, the maturity and the leadership we have going into this season.  We will have to work very hard to compete versus the schedule we are facing.  Our biggest asset is Canion, our second biggest is leadership and the maturity we gained last year.”

2011: 47-15, 11-7
2011 Postseason: NCAA (WCWS Semi-Finalist)
Coach: Glenn Moore, 12th Season

Field Players:
Senior Kayce Walker (RF) and Junior Kathy Shelton (CF) return in the outfield.  The road roommates are a speedy pair of slappers.  All-Conference selection Walker stole 18 bases and hit .312. Shelton was a unanimous All-Conference pick and All-Region selectee.  In league play, she led the conference in hits and stolen bases, was second in average and fourth in runs scored.  Coach Moore likes this pair. “Kat is a gamer; she milks everything and is consistent.  Walker, combined with Shelton, could be one of the top 1-2’s in the nation.”  Red shirt sophomore Holly Holl came on strong in 2011.  Holl ended the season second on the team in average (.356) and RBI (21) and Coach Moore thinks, “she is poised for a break out year.”  Senior Megan Turk was another of the Bears five All-Conference picks.  A fixture at third base, her veteran leadership anchors the infield.

Baylor enters 2012 with a complete staff of pitchers, including three returners.  Red shirt junior Whitney Canion is the mainstay in the circle, collecting 278 innings, four times more than both her 2011 bullpen partners. Canion’s list of accomplishments in 2011 is long.  The 2009 Big 12 Freshman and Pitcher of the Year made the USA National Team, was an NFCA All-American, set the Baylor all-time strikeout record at 833 and recorded 31 wins, also a Baylor single season record.  Junior Courtney Repka and sophomore Liz Paul provided able relief for Canion, earning nine and seven wins respectively.  Paul finished the season with a 1.86 ERA.  Freshman Linsey Hays and Melissa Shreck complete the potential pitchers for the Bears.

Who to Watch:
Hays joins Baylor and adds a little versatility playing both outfield and pitching.  A multi-sport athlete, she bats from the left, hits for power and has tremendous hands allowing her to also play the short game.  In her senior year, Hays struck out 280, hit .645 with 19 home runs for Brock High School.  The heralded freshman, who will likely start for the Bears, was a three-time All-State selection in softball, led her team to a 3A State title and a runner up finish, as well as being part of two basketball State championship teams.  “Hays will eventually be one of the best pure hitters to ever wear the Green and Gold,” Coach Moore believes.  Freshmen Delaney Guy and Jordan Strickland will play up the middle for the Bears in 2012.  Guy, a 2011 Under Armour All-American, drives the ball from the left and adds even more speed to the fast Baylor lineup.  Strickland, another multi-sport star, was a softball All-State selection in 2010. “Strickland and Guy will make mistakes early, but as soon as the game shrinks for them, we could have the best middle we’ve ever had.  It could take some time to gel,” Moore pointed out.

Final Projection:
With the addition of more speed in Guy and power in Hays, the Bears should be able to fill the hole left by the graduation of All-American Dani Leal.  Canion’s ability to dominate in the circle makes the Bears one of the top programs in the country.  Veterans Turk, Walker, Shelton, Holl and catchers Kelsi Kettler and Clair Hosack should provide Canion with the support she needs to carry the Bears a long way.  Coach Moore commented, “We are much more mature than a year ago but all teams must be tested to see if we have the intangible we had a year ago…chemistry.  We also know we need to have a more scary offense… I don’t  think we will be “scary” this year either but we can score.  We also have strong depth and a 30+ home game schedule should be an advantage.”  With the return of a core group that finished top four in the country, had the longest winning streak in program history (14), only lost back to back games twice, Baylor expects to compete for both the Big 12 and national titles.

Projected Postseason: NCAA

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Kathy Shelton, CF, 206
Hits: Kathy Shelton, CF, 74
Home Runs: Whitney Canion, P, 6; Clair Hosak, C, 6
RBIs: Kathy Shelton, CF, 21; Holly Holl, 1B, 21; Megan Turk, 3B, 21
Runs: Kathy Shelton, CF, 35
Stolen Bases: Kathy Shelton, CF, 33

Wins: Whitney Canion, P, 31
Innings Pitched: Whitney Canion, P, 278
Strikeouts: Whitney Canion, P, 339
Saves: Whitney Canion, P, 3

Madness 2012 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#8 Delaney Guy
#32 Bailey Chalmers