By Jeffrey Swindoll
Baylor baseball flew out to California Thursday for another weekend of baseball on the West Coast.
This will be the second time this season the Bears will go on the road. It will be the first time the Bears will participate in a double-header this season.
Head coach Steve Smith and his team are set to match up against University of California (5-2) at 1 p.m. and University of San Diego (6-1) at 5 p.m. today.
The Bears will play San Diego again at 9 p.m. Saturday and UNC-Wilmington (4-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday.
This week looked to be one of the Bears’ busiest all season, but after home games on Tuesday and Wednesday were postponed, the load of games this week became lighter.
“We went from thinking this is going to be the busiest week to a couple of them getting rained out and now even over there the weather is going to be questionable,” senior infielder Lawton Langford said. “But we’ve got to be prepared to play, no matter what the weather is.”
Smith said he thinks the hosts, San Diego, will do everything in the program’s power to get the games going this weekend, without weather being too much of an issue.
Baylor’s starting pitchers turned in exceptional shifts against Austin Peay and UT-Arlington, going undefeated in all home games. Senior Dillon Newman (1-0, 2.61 ERA) will start on the mound for the Bears against California.
Newman struck out nine batters last Friday, a career record. Junior Brad Kuntz, who will start for the Bears against San Diego on Friday, also had a fantastic night against Austin Peay.
Austin Stone, who will start against San Diego Saturday, had a career game as well.
“We’ve got great depth in the pitching staff,” senior DH Grayson Porter said. “We know they’re going to go out there and compete. We just worry about our job at the plate.”
Baylor’s hitting has been superb, especially in Baylor’s dominant wins over Austin Peay and UT-Arlington, Porter leads the team in home runs with two. One came in a comeback win against Arizona State, and the other was against Austin Peay. Both ended up being game-winners.
Baylor’s infield was barely tested against those same teams. In the opening weekend against Arizona State, the Bears’ defense was porous, giving up more than 20 runs in three games.
Since the two losses to Arizona State, the Bears have tried to work out the defensive kinks.
“We’ve put in a lot of work defensively,” Langford said. “What happened at Arizona State is not like our ball club. I think what you saw here at home is going to be more typical of what you’re going to see all year.”
Smith said the lack of action for his infield does not necessarily concern him, but admitted he cannot say he has a fair and complete assessment of how they match up against other teams. Part of that is because Baylor’s pitching has been lights out in the past four games, and opposing teams have not been able to put the ball in play.
On offense, the Bears have been stellar, scoring 15 runs in game two, and 12 runs in game three against Austin Peay.
“Run production has been huge. We’re just taking it one pitch at a time and just getting the job done,” Porter said. “Everyone was talented that we faced. We just stayed disciplined and did our job. That’s something we take pride in.”
Baylor has never played San Diego or North Carolina-Wilmington. The only team the Bears have played is California, and they have only met five times. UNC-Wilmington won their conference last season with an 18-8 record. The last meeting against California was on March 1, 2013, and that game ended in a 9-0 win for the Bears.