WACO, Texas -- It took 305 pitches, but sixth-year senior left-handed pitcher Whitney Canion willed Baylor to its fifth trip to an NCAA super regional with an epic performance on the mound Sunday at Getterman Stadium. Canion surrendered a walkoff home run in the bottom of the 11th inning as Tulsa took game on of the Waco Regional championship 1-0 before coming back to lift the Lady Bears (45-14) to a 3-1 victory to clinch a spot in the next round.
Canion threw 175 pitches in the first-game loss matching Tulsa (53-9) starter Aimee Creger pitch-for-pitch, but Catherine Hoerner's solo home run against the leftfield wall forced the if-necessary game with one out in the bottom of the 11th.
In what might have surprised many at Getterman Stadium on Sunday, Baylor head coach Glenn Moore's lineup for the final game of the tournament had No. 11 back in the circle.
Canion gave up a run in the top of the first inning when Jill Barrett singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a flyout and then came to score on Erica Sampson's RBI single to give the Golden Hurricane their only run.
From there, she completed the game scattering eight hits, walked just one and struck out nine to improve to 29-10 on the season. All in all Canion threw 17.1 innings, allowed 14 hits, two runs, walked two and struck out 19 in the two games vs. Tulsa.
"I don't think I've ever seen a pitcher do what Whitney Canion did. I don't know how, but it was amazing. The team saw that and they rallied behind her. We got what we needed from her, but she gave more," Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said. "I wanted her to go two or three more innings [in the second game]. I didn't want to start someone else and her get stiff. Whatever was left I wanted to use it. She just kept going like the Energizer bunny."
Kaitlyn Thumann matched a season-high with her 24th consecutive game to reach when she was hit by a pitch to begin the bottom of the first. Ari Hawkins doubled on the next at bat and Holly Holl later drove home Thumann with a sacrifice fly to knot the score at one apiece.
From there, Baylor's Sarah Smith provided the game-winning run in the bottom of the second with her first career postseason homer and sixth of the season when she hit a first-pitch ball over the leftfield fence off Tulsa starter Caitlin Sill.
"We needed a lot more than a boost. We felt like this is Whitney's home, and we didn't want to leave her out on the field after she threw all those innings," Smith said. "We wanted to bear down and not let them win. I liked the first pitch she threw, and it looked like a beach ball and I hit it."
Smith's home run also helped Baylor tie the single-season record for most home runs with the team's 68th. The 2006 squad also hit 68 home runs in 60 games.
Baylor added an insurance run in the fourth inning when Hawkins hit her second double of the game to drive home Lindsey Cargill.
Tulsa threatened in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out, but Canion struck out Haley Henshaw on the ninth pitch of the at bat for the second out and Barrett grounded out to Holly Holl to end the threat. In the seventh, Canion closed the door in order striking out Shelby Blanton, Sampson fouled out to the catcher, and Horner lined out to rightfield to end the game.
"Coach [Moore] asked me if I was ready to go and my heart told me yes. I started the game doubting myself when they scored the first run in the first inning," Canion said. "Once I went out there and threw in the game I felt like I was fine. I never thought about the pitch count or inning. I just took it one inning at a time. I thought this team behind me made some great plays and kept telling me to fight."