By Jeffrey Swindoll
It’s the home stretch for Baylor baseball. This season has brought some ups and lot of downs for the Bears, but there is still a flame of hope burning for this ball club. At this point, the Bears have their eyes focused on just one goal, to qualify for the Big 12 tournament.
“That’s what we have focus on right now as a team— just getting to the tournament, and doing whatever we can to get there,” sophomore pitcher Drew Tolson said. “That’s really all that’s ahead of us at this point.”
It is common knowledge among the team that Baylor baseball has never failed to play in the Big 12 tournament. It goes without saying that Baylor head coach Steve Smith’s ball club knows what is at stake. That alone will be motivation for the Bears to close out this singing, scratching and clawing, exhausting all options to get the job done and qualify for the Big 12 tournament.
“We, along with OU, are the only two members of the Big 12 to have made all of the conference tournaments so far, and I don’t think this group wants to be the first Baylor group not to get in,” Smith said.
“They’re in a similar situation as us. They’re just ahead of us in the standings. They happen to have nine games left to play. We only have six. We’re going to have to do something we haven’t done much, and that’s win on the road.”
The Bears will need a huge series win against OU this weekend, but with the season nearly complete, they leave little room for optimism about their chances in another team’s ballpark. Baylor has recently shown a difference in one area of their game, that could be a telltale sign of their fortunes changing this weekend in Norman, Okla. and hit production has gone up in its last three times out.
“Getting the bats going is definitely a good thing,” junior outfielder Adam Toth. “We’re getting people on base, but we’ve just got to get those timely hits and get the runs across.” Toth leads the team with a .287 batting average.
In game three against Kansas, the Bears cranked out 16 hits, but only managed to score five runs and ended up losing the game. It was nearly the same story in their against Sam Houston State on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Baylor finally turned those hits into runs and those runs into a win.
With senior pitcher Austin Stone and junior Brad Kuntz out Smith will start two first year starters on the mound— Tolson and freshman pitcher Daniel Castano.
“This’ll be the fifth different guy I think we’ve started in a conference game, with the two injuries. I think [Tolson’s] fine,” Smith said. “He’s not going to strike a bunch of guys out. They’ll put the ball in play, but he does a good job of locating. I feel good about that. What will really be more important about our game is what we’ll be able to do offensively.”
The series will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest Plus.