Know Your Weekend Softball Opponent - Baylor

Dak Dillon photo via MUtigers.com.

Since last we talked, Mizzou had a bit of an up-and-down weekend and week, and now faces down a big home series against #17 Baylor. The weather looks like it will cooperate for the weekend, giving you one less excuse about why you were not out there wearing gold and cheering on the Tigers. Before we get to what the #17 Bears have done this year, let's get caught up on the week-that-was for Mizzou,

MU Since Last We Talked:

Clearly I had big hopes for their road-trip last weekend down to College Station, but as Bill C. has lamented, Mizzou basically went 1-2 on the weekend thanks to two swings of the bat by the Aggies. While that is obviously a drastic over-simplification of what happened, you cannot help but feel that way after looking at the box scores. Friday night saw Chelsea Thomas give up a first inning, two-out walk and then a HR to put the Tigers down early. Thomas would go on to only give up two additional hits, but the Tigers couldn't muster enough, falling 2-1. Saturday saw Mizzou get out to a 6-1 lead in the top of the 2nd and then hold on to give Kristen Nottelmann a win (and Thomas a save) by the final of 6-5. The rubber game on Sunday had Thomas pitch another gem, but she was matched (just like Friday) by Dumezich (who also accounted for the HR on Friday) of aTm, and it was scoreless through 7. Thomas, carrying a no-hitter into the decisive 8th inning gave up a lead-off double and then game-winning single one out later, giving aTm the series and a 1-0 win. The Tigers bounced back Wednesday, sweeping Evansville in a double-header 4-2 and 7-0. Nottelmann was a little erratic in the first game, walking 6 but giving up only 1 earned run for her 9th win of the year, while Thomas was again brilliant in the night-cap, buoyed by three Mizzou HR's. That leaves Thomas at 12-3 on the year and the Tigers at 25-5 overall.

On to the Bears of Baylor, who of course were responsible for knocking Mizzou out of the WCWS last year in that epic, 13-inning, 1-0 game. (f you care to relive it, you can do so here.) In case you were interested, Baylor turned around the next day and fell quickly to eventual national champ Arizona State by a 4-0 score, but really, after our game, who could blame them? Anyway, this year has been a little up and down for them and the conference season has not started off very well. Let's take a look.

BU Schedule/Results:

Baylor had the good fortune/planning to play a number of tournaments at home to start the season with some decent results. They have a 4-0 win over Iowa (Mizzou defeated 8-0 and 2-0), but they also had an early season loss to Arkansas 5-1 (Mizzou defeated 4-0) as well as to Texas State by a 1-0 score. In the Citrus Classic, they started with their best OOC wins, a 2-1 win over now #10 Oregon and 2-0 win over now #23 North Carolina before dropping three in a row, one to a ranked (#14) UCLA team (10-6), Illinois State (6-4) and (RV) Syracuse (2-1). They rebounded and strung some OOC wins together before falling 1-0 to Buffalo on the eve of the B12 season. They have had a tough go of it so far, losing two of three at home to #7 OU before dropping a 6-1 decision to the Aggies this past week in College Station. All in all, BU sits currently at 22-9. They are 18-5 at home, but only 4-4 in games outside of Waco.

BU Offense:

On offense, BU is struggling (at least as it compares to MU or aTm, who we looked at last week). The Bears are hitting .260, with only one everyday starter, junior Kathy Shelton, over .300. She also leads the team in slugging (.472), OBP (also .472) and is tied for the team lead in RBI's with 11. By comparison, MU had 6 "everyday" players at .300 or over, four with a higher slugging, two with a higher OBP and at least seven with more RBI's. BU is severely lacking in power this year, as they have only 40 XBH and a team total of FOUR HR's on the season, coming from 3 people. Claire Hosack, a sophomore leads the team in that category with 2. BU has scored 104 runs in their 31 games, drawing just 66 BB's against 116 K's. They have left 185 runners on base, but are speedy on the base paths, swiping 49 of 55 on the season.

BU Defense:

BU comes into the game with 27 errors on the season and a fielding percentage of .971. Light-hitting freshman infielder Delaney Guy (and I do mean light-hitting, checking in well below the Mendoza Line at .148) leads the squad with 10 errors, which in total have led to 19 unearned runs (out of 57 total). The Aggies have given up 10 SB's in just 14 chances.

BU Pitching:

So after reading about the pretty anemic offense, did you wonder how BU was even 22-9? Wonder no more. The pitching is still getting it done for the Bears. They feature a team ERA of 1.24 over 214 innings, giving up 129 hits and just 38 earned runs. They have walked 67 and struck out 150 (not exactly mowing them down, but effective nonetheless). They are led by RS junior Whitney Canion, who has a microscopic 0.35 ERA, though only in 40 innings on the season. Junior Courtney Repka appears to be innings eater through the early part of the season, sporting an equally impressive 0.92 ERA and a 10-4 record in 99 innings. Sophomore Liz Paul has also contributed with a 2.04 ERA and a 6-4 record over 72 innings. Neither Repka nor Paul strike a lot of people out (82 batters in 171 innings), but both have a sub-.200 batting average against. I cannot really speak to why Canion has pitched so little this season, but she has given up just 10 hits and 14 walks while striking out 66 in her time in the circle with a batting average against of .081. Mizzou sports a 3-2 record against Canion in her career, with all three wins coming in 2009 and both losses coming last year. Mizzou went 2-0 against Repka in 2010.

[EDIT: Via the release for this weekend on MUTigers.com]

All-American pitcher Whitney Canion saw her season come to an unfortunate end back in late February, tearing her ACL while running out a grounder againts North Texas on Feb. 26. She was 5-1 with a 0.35 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 40.0 innings before suffering the injury. Courtney Repka and Liz Paul have stepped in in her absence. Repka is 10-4 on the season with a 0.92 ERA in 20 appearances, while Paul is 6-4 with a 2.04 mark. Both pitchers have 41 strikeouts on the season.

Overall Thoughts:

I really have no idea what to expect from Baylor when it comes to pitching, and it would seem that will potentially dictate the series. Getting BU at home will certainly help the Tigers, and I cannot help but think they will have OKC on their minds, at least to start on Friday evening. BU really does struggle to score runs, scoring only two in four conference games thus far. Nottelmann will need to rebound from her somewhat sloppy outing on Wednesday against Evansville, and MU pitchers will simply need to avoid the big hit. At the same time, the offense HAS to start getting to be more consistent. I really do not see where you can expect BU to scratch more than a run or two in each game, so as long as the defense is not giving them away and the pitching is solid, the offense should not have to do much. But it will have to do SOMETHING to win these games.

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