By Jeffrey Swindoll
The Bears’ pitching lineup has been tested this season. The talk of its quality and grit have been put to the test. Injuries have plagued the pitching staff in 2014, but they have overcome the obstacles for now, thanks to recent heroics from freshman left-handed pitcher Daniel Castano.
Baylor head coach Steve Smith was dealt a tough hand with injuries to key pitchers the past few weeks. Luckily for Smith, his rising young star stepped up to the mound when his team desperately needed production from the mound.
“With losing [Austin] Stone, Ryan [Smith] and others, we’ve got to have our starting pitchers carry us. Kuntz has got to go out, Newman behind him and Castano behind him.”
After Stone picked up a minor injury to his bicep a couple of weeks ago, Castano got the call for weekend starter duties against a conference rival.
Castano’s first game in the weekend lineup came against Kansas State last Saturday. The Bears already lost the series, dropping the first two games, but it remained to be seen how Castano would hold up against a solid conference opponent in Kansas State.
The Bears were woeful on the road. The Bears had not won a road game since the beginning of the season going into the Kansas State finale.
There was hardly anything to write home about, aside from their pitching.
Castano, the youngest pitcher in the starting lineup, came in and revitalized the Bears’ presence on the road in the Kansas State game to deliver a 3-1 win. Castano gave up only one run in that game. His performance sent a shockwave across the team and the country.
Castano was awarded Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after his stunning career-high eight-inning night against Kansas State.
He also threw a career-high six strikeouts against the Wildcats.
As the youngest pitcher in the starting lineup, Castano hosts the best winning record on the team (5-1) and has done so in pitching the least innings among the starters.
As Castano’s strength and ability emerged to the forefront, the pitching staff’s depth and leadership also became evident.
“Especially the older guys have done a great job of saying the things to help us all push on to the next day and get better each practice,” Castano said.
Experienced pitchers such as senior Josh Michalec have led the young guns in the ball club, namely Castano, who has had an excellent season under the wing of the Baylor’s veterans.
“Everybody on our team has a job,” Michalec said. “We’ve got a lot of young pitchers, and I’m trying to help lead them towards the best way to find success.”
On a team that has found serious problems getting run production, the performances from Castano, along with other pitchers, are magnified exponentially. Any slip-up from Castano could result in consequences.
Castano and the rest of the pitching cast position the Bears for the win, but at some point, something has to give.
Either the pitching gets broken open by the opposition, or the Bears get the go-ahead runs. It’s as simple as that.
“I think our main problem is putting our hitting and our pitching together at the same time,” Castano said. “We’ve got to both be on the same page so that when our pitching is there, our hitting is there, and when our hitting is there, our pitching is there.”
Castano is just one piece to the puzzle of this team blending as a force to be reckoned with. His pitching helps keep the Bears on track to pick up a somewhat conference season that has been disappointing for Baylor coaches, players and fans thus far.