By Jeffrey Swindoll
Baylor baseball hit another bump in the road this week at Texas State. After picking up a 4-3 win Tuesday night at Baylor Ballpark, the Bears failed to complete the series sweep, falling to Texas State 2-0.
The Bears had just got the burden of their 21-game losing streak on the road lifted off their shoulders, and seemingly put their poor form as visitors behind. The Bears hit a wall, but their confidence in their team and the outlook of the season remain optimistic.
“We’re not out of it by any means,” senior closer Josh Michalec said. “It’s not over until we can’t play anymore. We’re going to keep grinding.”
Needless to say, Baylor will be thankful to host a conference series this weekend at home against the Kansas Jayhawks rather have to play three critical games at someone else’s ballpark.
The Bears will face off against a Jayhawks team that has pulled out some impressive wins on the road.
“They’ve already done two we haven’t been able to do — win two in Austin and win two with their rival, K-State,” head coach Steve Smith said. “That’s really all we need to know and really all our guys need to know. We’re trying to catch them.”
Smith credits those notable Kansas wins to the discipline and solid coaching of the Jayhawks.
“I have been immensely impressed by the job Ritchie Price has done over there,” Smith said. “That is sometimes a very overstated thing. I’m not blowing smoke up his skirt at all when I say that they are well-coached. It’s always kind of fun to watch them play.”
The Bears (19-22, 5-9) are just behind the Jayhawks (23-20, 6-9) in the Big 12 standings. With that said, this weekend can be turning point for the Bears. A three-game sweep over Kansas could catapult the Bears into the top half of the league standings.
“Everybody’s kind of beating up on each other in the Big 12, so we’ve got a chance to win a series and get right back in this thing,” junior outfielder Adam Toth said.
The Bears have a chance to change their fortunes from earlier this season, but Smith is cautious to keep the team’s goals in perspective.
Baylor has most likely dropped too many series to conference opponents to have a favorable shot at the Big 12 title, but Smith said he and the team still have plans to keep playing past the regular season.
“I don’t know if we’re in a race to win a championship, but we’re definitely in a race,” Smith said. “These guys want to get to the tournament, and they want to get to postseason. Their focus and their energy and their mindset, I couldn’t ask for anything more from this group.”
First pitch is at 6:35 p.m. today, 3:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday at Baylor Ballpark.
Senior pitcher Brad Kuntz will start on the mound for the Bears tonight. Kuntz’ last time out was against Kansas State where the Wildcats had a four-run field day with him in five-plus innings. With Baylor’s weak hit production, four runs is a huge mountain to climb even with solid pitching like Baylor usually has.