Baylor sophomore Heather Stearns hadn’t pitched much the past few weeks.
A text message from Bears coach Glenn Moore on Friday night changed that.
“Hey, there’s been some great sophomore pitchers throw this weekend,” the message read. “It’s time to let one shine for Baylor.”
Stearns did exactly that, throwing nearly five innings Saturday and getting plenty of run support from the Bears’ previously dormant offense in a 7-2 victory over Florida State in the Women’s College World Series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“Maybe a little bit surprised, but really excited,” Stearns said about the text message. “I’ve been waiting for my turn. I was just excited and ready to go.”
After a disappointing performance in Thursday’s opener against Florida, an 11-0 loss, Moore said he carefully calculated that Stearns would deliver in the circle instead of veteran Whitney Canion.
The decision paid off, as Stearns did not allow a hit until the third inning and two runs she allowed came on a bases-loaded single by Florida State’s Tiffani Brown in the fifth.
“We’ve been playing so well we haven’t really had to go that deep in our bullpen,” Moore said. “Our sport, sometimes lends you to go with your ace until her arm falls off literally. But we knew had a long road ahead of us, so we were going to have to use her at some point in time.
Baylor (48-15) took a 3-0 lead in the second when Clare Hosack scored on an RBI groundout by Sarah Smith and Jordan Strickland hit the first of two two-run home runs.
Strickland also homered with two outs in the sixth.
“Once I stepped to the plate in the seventh hole, it was a lot more relaxing because the hitters in front of me had been doing their jobs, they were on base and I saw that they were hitting her hard,” Strickland said. “So it was a self-esteem booster for me just to see that my teammates were rallying together and just putting something together.”
Florida State pitcher Lacey Waldrop, the national player of the year, was ineffective in her last start as a junior, lasting just four innings and allowing three earned runs.
It could be the confidence booster the Bears need heading into another elimination game Saturday evening against Kentucky.
“That was not us two days ago against Florida,” Baylor left fielder Linsey Says said. “And I think that’s very evident now.”