After resting this morning, ace Whitney Canion opened up the game tonight against the Wildcats of Kentucky.
The first half inning was over in a flash as Canion struck out two, walked one, and caused one to ground out. Baylor bats faced off against screwball happy Kelsey Nunley of Kentucky. Kaitlyn Thumann led off for Baylor and drew a full count before being walked on a high ball. Ari Hawkins blooped one to the second baseman, catching Thumann in a pickle. Hawkins advanced to first, but Thumann was tagged out. Big bat Holly Holl bat third spot, but before she could hit, Kentucky catcher Griffin Joiner threw a rocket to second base to catch Hawkins stealing. 0-0.
The second inning saw Canion get ahead on the count against infielder Lauren Cumbess before Cumbess popped up to Hawkins. The next pitch just seemed to hang above the strike zone and Emily Gaines took advantage of it, launching the ball over the right field wall. Canion attempted to put one down in the zone, but Krystal Smith knocked one to the outfield wall for a double. Liz Paul was shown warming up at this point. Thankfully, the next batter hit a pop-up to Jordan Strickland and Canion was able to settle down. A cheeky play from the Baylor infield almost got Smith diving back to second, but Strickland was unable to get low enough to get the tag. Ginny Carroll crushed one and despite the attempt of Cargill to nab it (she lost her glove over the fence), the ball dropped over the outfield fence to give the Wildcats a 3-0 lead. Canion had her speed, but was unable to maintain control of her pitches. Liz Paul came in searching for the final out of the second, her first time since 2012. Heather Stearns also warmed up. Paul came in and struck out Christian Stokes in four pitches to end the inning. 3-0 Kentucky.
The bottom of the second didn't start off well for the Lady Bears - Clare Hosack lined out almost immediately. Linsey Hays blooped one to the shortstop and reached on an error by the shortstop. Smith came up next and nearly grounded into a double play, but was able to beat out the throw at first. With Sarah Smith on first, early game hero Jordan Strickland looked to repeat her home runs from the morning, but she merely flied out and ended the inning. 3-0 Kentucky.
Sylver Samuel led off the inning for the Wildcats and popped one into the right field foul territory where it was nabbed by the right fielder. 3B Nikki Samuel drew a walk and quickly stole second. Speaking of quick, Liz Paul does not hesitate at all between pitches. It's like watching Baylor Football's offense at work. The next batter, Joiner, doubled to left field, but a laser of a throw from LF Linsey Hays and great defensive positioning from 3B Sarah Smith caught Samuel at third. Kentucky's coach, Rachel Lawson, jawed with the refs a bit over the play, but there was nothing illegal about Smith's positioning on the catch. Thankfully, the umps chilled the situation and the game continued with no tosses. Paul was able to get the next batter on a short pop-up to Strickland to end the half inning with no damage down.
Landrith began the bottom of the third for the Lady Bears, but grounded out on a nice stretch play by Kentucky's 3B. Cargill pulled out the cheeky bunt straight at the pitcher and reached first on a head-first dive. Thumann struck out looking on a ball that just clipped the inside of the strike zone. Ari Hawkins quickly drew a 3-0 count, but then earned a full count and popped out to the pitcher. Baylor stranded runners once again. 3-0 Kentucky.
Emily Gaines quickly flied out deep to Hays to start off the fourth. Krystal Smith reached base once again with a single up the middle off Paul's first pitch. An error proved costly for the Lady Bears once again. On a hit through the 1B and 2B that should have been at most a single, Jolly advanced to third because of a fielding error by Thumann. Although Hosack nearly got Smith at the plate, the runner scored for the second time. Carroll reached first on a fielder's choice and Jolly beat out the throw at home to score and put the Wildcats up five with one on and one out. Stokes kept the hits coming with another just inside the third base. A grounder to Paul was corralled by the pitcher, who was able to get the out at first. Smith grabbed the following grounder and got the out at first to finally stop the scoring. 5-0 Kentucky.
The heart of the order for Baylor came to bat looking to shrink the lead. Holly Holl drew a walk in four hits to get a runner on for the Lady Bears. Clare Hosack followed and fell behind, 0-2, on the count, but was able to come back and force a long at-bat, yet Hosack still struck out swinging. Kentucky turned a rare 6-4-3 double play off of Hays grounder and the inning was over without the runs the Lady Bears desperately needed. 5-0 Kentucky.
Griffin Joiner took the first pitch of the fifth inning over the wall, but just foul. A few pitches later, she popped out to Hawkins. Lauren Cumbess hit four or so fouls on the next at-bat before Paul was able to catch her looking on an inside screwball. Emily Gaines was struck out swinging in four pitches by Paul to keep Baylor in the game. 5-0 Kentucky.
Sarah Smith, one of the best bats of the post-season for the Lady Bears, took Nunley to a full count, but squandered the chance with a dinky pop-out to first. Strickland again couldn't find the magic from this morning and grounded out. Landrith finally gets the second hit for Baylor with a hit down the left field line that the diving fielder just missed. Linsey Cargill knocked one through the left side and the Lady Bears found themselves with two out and two on with Thumann up at the plate. Nothing doing for Baylor as Thumann flew out (still hitless in the WCWS at this point) and the Lady Bears entered the sixth inning still down, 5-0.
The bottom of the order and Krystal Smith struck again with a home run the just barely stayed fair. Liz Paul got the next two batters to fly out, but the damage had been done. Stokes drove another high, slow ball into the outfield for a double. Heather Stearns in to pitch. More misfielding and another run scores before Baylor finally ends the inning. 7-0 Kentucky.
Baylor rallied in the bottom of the sixth, though they still left three stranded. Hawkins singled on a bunt, Holl singled to left field, Hosack grounded out, but not before Hawkins and Holl advanced. Hays singled to the shortstop, who bobbled the ball and allowed Hawkins to score. Baylor would put two more across in the inning, but Thumann flied out to end the inning and strand three. Thumann, though she hit .387 coming into the WCWS, is 0-for-8 in the Series. 7-3 Kentucky.
Three up three down for the Wildcats and the Lady Bears are faced with three outs to get four runs. Ari Hawkins takes the tired Nunely to the yard with a towering home run! Holly Holl reaches first on an error by the second baseman! Nunley strikes out Hosack a rising, inside ball. Two outs left for the Lady Bears. Hays grounded out on an excellent play by the first baseman for the out. Smith knocked one deep to right field and Holl scored! 7-5. Strickland up with the tying run at the plate. 3-1 count. STRICKLAND WALKS! Game-winning run at the plate! Landrith up. Down to the final strike. LANDRITH WITH THE MASSIVE HIT TO THE WALL!!! TIE GAME!!! Landrith on second with Cargill up. Two outs. Right into the glove of the third baseman. To extra innings we go!!!
Krystal Smith pops out. Another pop out. One more run and the Lady Bears are up. Looooong at bat. 10 pitches and counting... GOT HER!!! Lady Bears come to the plate in the bottom of the eighth with all the momentum in the world. Nunley still in with 138 pitches and counting. THUMANN HITS HER FIRST ONE OF THE SERIES AND SHE'S ON SECOND (Nunley should have been gone a long time ago but I don't even care!) ARI HAWKINS BUNTS FIRST BASE ERROR AND THUMANN SCORES!!! DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?
Player of the Game
Everyone. Everyone. Everyone. The entire freaking herd of water buffalo, whatever that means I don't even care LADY BEARS SCORE EIGHT UNANSWERED AND WIN!!!
Watch out Florida. The water buffalo are coming for you!