Not ready to go home
Baylor's Strickland, Stearns help keep Bears alive in WCWS
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Jordan Strickland is not ready to go home just yet.
A junior from Princeton, Texas, Strickland had a day to remember -- so far -- with two home runs off 2014 USA Softball Player of the Year Lacey Waldrop in leading Baylor to a 7-2 victory versus Florida State. It was the first game of the 2014 Women's College World Series' "win-in-to-stay-in-it" Saturday.
Obviously, there is no margin for error.
Strickland hit her 13th homer of the year to put BU up 3-0 in the second. In the sixth, another two-run shot gave the Bears a 7-2 lead. The hot bat is no surprise; after the 2-for-3 performance with four runs driven in against FSU, Strickland is 10-for-23 (.435) with eight RBI this postseason.
"We had a completely different approach today," Strickland said. "We knew it was one and done and we aren't ready for this team to be done yet. We just came out with a lot of intensity today and were working to put it all together. For me, once I stepped to the plate in the seven-hole, it was easy … not easy, but a little more relaxed, because the hitters in front of me had been doing their job, getting on base and hitting [Waldrop] hard."
Linsey Hays was one of those in front of Strickland, scoring three times and going 3-for-3 at the plate.
"We were much more intense, ready, and aggressive," Hays said. "That was not us two days ago against Florida; I think that is very evident now."
"That was the team that loaded the bus when we left Waco," said BU head coach Glen Moore, whose club turns right around and faces Kentucky at 7 p.m. ET later Saturday. "We certainly knew we were a better team that showed up here in Oklahoma City; we wanted to have the opportunity to prove that."
The Bears (48-15) needed to prove something in the circle as well after All-American Whitney Canion and Heather Stearns were not sharp in an 11-0 thrashing by Florida on Thursday.
Stearns, a sophomore from Plano, Texas, got the call against the Seminoles and was steady for five-plus innings, before being relieved by Canion. Making her first appearance of the postseason, Stearns struck out Courtney Senas with the bases loaded in the third inning, but was chased when Briana Hamilton singled home two in the fifth. Despite walking five, Moore's duo battled and helped keep the Bears, making their second WCWS appearance in four seasons, alive.
BU's starting pitcher found out by text message on Friday night that she would be starting in the biggest game of BU's 2014 campaign.
"I got the text last night and maybe I was a little bit surprised, but really more excited," Stearns said. "Waiting for my turn; just excited and ready to go. I felt like I had good command and I wanted to go right after them."
Moore knew the road ahead requires two quality arms and felt confident in his sophomore before he sent the text message.
"You'd like to do something like that face-to-face, but when you are here at the World Series and getting pulled in different directions sometimes you don't meet with your team as often as you'd like," Moore said. "They respond well to text messages these days.
"Heather hadn't thrown in a long, long time. For her to have sat and watched, warmed up, and then didn't get to pitch time and again … for her to come out and throw a game like that against a good-hitting team like Florida State, I can't say enough good things about her."
Prior to Saturday, Canion (31-11), who is expected to start against Kentucky on Saturday, had worked every inning of the postseason and started 38 of the Bears' 62 games. Stearns (14-4) started 20 games during the regular season.
Following the ugly loss to the Gators, Moore talked about his team's "intestinal fortitude."
"You can't really look ahead at this point, it's about playing one game at a time," Strickland said. "Everybody is fighting for the same thing today, to keep playing."
Kentucky lost to Alabama and Jaclyn Traina on Friday night. After solving Waldrop, the Bears now get another high-quality hurler in Kelsey Nunley on Saturday evening.
"Against UCLA, we played two on Sunday, so I know we can come back from [Friday] and battle hard [Saturday]," Nunley said.
Whoever wins the Baylor-Kentucky battle on Saturday must then come back and beat Florida twice on Sunday. Alabama, also 2-0 this week, is sitting on the other side of the bracket waiting on whoever grinds through another Saturday in OKC.