OKLAHOMA City, Okla. – The most significant comeback in Baylor softball history propelled the Lady Bears to an epic 8-7, eight-inning win over Kentucky Saturday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium to help BU advance to the Women’s College World Series semifinals.
— Baylor Softball (@BaylorSoftball) June 1, 2014
Baylor (49-15) trailed 7-0 headed into the bottom of the sixth inning before scoring three runs in the sixth, four in the seventh, and Kaitlyn Thumann scored the winning run on a sacrifice bunt laid down by Ari Hawkins with two strikes in the bottom of the eight to win the game.
Kentucky (50-19) catcher Griffin Joiner fielded Hawkins’ bunt, which advanced Thumann to third, but her throw went off the glove of first baseman Lauren Cumbess into rightfield and Thumann came around to score.
“Our seniors took us in a meeting on the field and told us it wouldn’t be their last game,” Hawkins said. “They put the scare in us.”
The Wildcats and UK starter Kelsey Nunley held Baylor mum for the first five innings and scored seven runs through the top of the sixth inning. However, Linsey Hays, Jordan Strickland and Lindsey Cargill all provided RBI singles in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead to four at 7-3. Thumann struck out swinging with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, but would get redemption later.
Heather Stearns, in relief of Whitney Canion and Liz Paul, then kept the Wildcats at bay in the top of the seventh, setting the Wildcats down in order. The Lady Bears’ heroics continued in the seventh when Ari Hawkins took a 1-0 pitch of Nunley deep to left centerfield over the wall to cut the lead to three. Then, Sarah Smith doubled home Holly Holl to cut the lead to two with one out.
Jordan Strickland walked to put runners on first and second with one out, and Robin Landrith, the left-handed hitter, took a 2-2 pitch deep to opposite field for a double, which scored both Strickland and Holl to knot the score.
“I was thinking it might’ve been my last at-bat of the season,” Landrith said. “Just didn’t want to go down looking.”
Cargill almost ended the game, but her hard line drive was caught by KU third baseman Nikki Sagermann to end the inning.
Stearns went back to work in the top of the eighth inducing two pop ups, and she struck out Ginny Carroll to end the KU half of the inning.
Thumann, who has been Baylor’s leading hitter all season, had been 0-for-9 at the plate in the WCWS before she pulled an 0-2 pitch into the right centerfield gap to start the bottom of the eighth inning. Baylor head coach Glenn Moore then signaled with two strikes for Hawkins to bunt, and the winning play transpired.
“Wow! I won’t forget that one until I forget who I am! These girls are incredible,” Moore said. “You know, they just didn’t quit believing. For five innings we weren’t even in the game. That’s why you play seven, I guess.”
Stearns, who hadn’t had a win since May 3, prior to Saturday, picked up two WCWS wins in one day in BU’s wins over Florida State and Kentucky to improve to 15-4.
Baylor returns to the semifinals once again after making an appearance there the last time the Lady Bears were in Oklahoma City for the WCWS in 2011.
Baylor will face Florida for the second time in the WCWS Sunday at Noon on ESPN in the semi-finals round. If Baylor wins, the Lady Bears will have to beat Florida again at 6 p.m. on ESPN in order to advance to the championship, best-of-three series, June 2-4.