Picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 before the season began, the Baylor softball team instead was one of the nation’s last four teams remaining. The Lady Bears advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series — the best showing in program history — before falling to the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, Arizona State, on Sunday. (See our massive photo gallery from the week here.)
Appearing at the WCWS for just the second time ever, the Lady Bears made the most of their time in Oklahoma City. Head coach Glenn Moore’s squad opened play with a dramatic, extra-inning 1-0 win over Oklahoma State on a walk-off home run, then repeated the feat (this time in 13 innings) against Missouri two days later. (Both home runs made ESPN’s Top 10 Plays the next day.)
In the end, Baylor just couldn’t muster enough offense against the tournament’s top two seeds, losing 3-0 to No. 2 Alabama and 4-0 to the top-ranked Sun Devils. All-American Whitney Canion lived up to the honor, pitching every CWS inning but one for Baylor; the redshirt sophomore started four games in four days, striking out 34 batters in 33 innings and allowing just six earned runs (a 1.27 ERA) against four of the nation’s best teams.
Looking ahead to next year, Baylor will lose just two starters to graduation: shortstop Dani Leal and second baseman KJ Freeland. While no senior is ever easily replaced, the Lady Bears should be in good shape to continue this season’s success in 2012. Baylor finished the season 46-13, the fourth-most wins in program history; why not shoot for the record next year?
[6/15/11 update: Baylor ranked fourth in the final polls from both the USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 polls, the highest-ever ranking in program history.]
Sic ’em, Baylor softball!