By Daniel Hill
The Baylor Bears have been on a hot streak recently, riding a five-game winning streak and coming out as the victors in 14 of their last 19 contests.
The Bears look to continue the winning trend this weekend when they travel to Lawrence for a three-game series against the Kansas Jayhawks.
The Jayhawks are sitting in fifth place in the Big 12 with a 9-9 conference record and are 27-18 overall.
“Well, I’ve been following Kansas from afar all season and my thinking, long before today, has been that they looked like they were sizing up to be one of the better teams in our league because of the whole balance of their team,” head coach Steve Smith said. “They’ve got all three starters coming back on the mound, which is always a good thing. They have got some experience in the lineup and they are always good defensively.”
Not only will the Bears be facing a challenging team in the Jayhawks, but they will also have to handle adverse conditions in Lawrence with cold weather. The forecast for Friday through Sunday in Lawrence calls for some chilly baseball weather with highs in the 40s and lows in the 30s with a chance of rain and snow.
“We’ve had a few too many games so far this year in the cold,” senior first baseman Steve DalPorto said. “I’m looking forward to some warm weather but you know, we’re just going to take it one pitch at a time and the cold won’t affect us because they are going to be playing in it too.”
The Bears have played in cold weather before this season in Stillwater against Oklahoma State, so they know how to handle the cold. Despite the experience, playing baseball in the cold is anything but ideal.
“Some people like it and some people don’t,” senior right-handed pitcher Max Garner said. “I usually don’t have a problem staying loose or anything like that, and hitters hate it so that’s good enough for me. It’s kind of just personal opinion or whatever. I don’t mind it and I know [sophomore right-handed pitcher Austin] Stone doesn’t care so we’re just going to go up there and try to throw the ball as well as we have thrown it these last couple of weeks.”
One of the reasons Baylor has been enjoying success on the diamond recently is because of the added production from the entire lineup.
Throughout Tuesday’s 6-4 win against UT Arlington, the back end of the lineup played a major role. The six through nine hitters accounted for four RBIs.
Sophomore designated hitter Duncan Wendel drove in two runs. Sophomore center fielder Adam Toth was 3-4 with a run and an RBI. Toth is now hitting .252 on the season.
“It’s really good to see Toth start to get his game going,” Smith said. “He’s playing with more confidence. I think you know, it’s amazing to me how much more confident he plays when he plays center field.”
Senior first baseman Steve DalPorto was 3-4 with an RBI and a run. DalPorto has a .250 batting average for the year.
“What DalPorto has done, really doesn’t surprise me just because I’ve seen it so many times from guys who were seniors,” Smith said. “The game slows down for them and that’s what he’s doing. He’s having the best part of his game right now and he’s really been good at first base, which at the beginning of the year, was as big of a question mark as we had.”
Baylor is currently second to Oklahoma in the Big 12 standings. The Sooners are 10-5 (.667) in Big 12 play and the Bears are 11-6 with a .647 winning percentage.
With only six Big 12 games left, Baylor wants a back-to-back Big 12 title, but first they must take care of Kansas.
“We are going up there and expecting a lot of close games,” Garner said. “You can say whatever you want about the cold, but they don’t like it either, even though they are from there. We are probably going to expect some low scoring games and just try to pullout a couple of wins. It’s not going to be pretty up there when it’s thirty-something degrees so we just have to find a way.”