By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
Baylor baseball looks to start Big 12 Conference play on the right foot as it faces West Virginia in a weekend series at Baylor Ballpark.
The Bears (15-2) own the best record among Big 12 teams while the Mountaineers (8-7) currently sit at second-to-last.
Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez says West Virginia’s record may be due to their schedule and that they are still a strong team.
“They’ve played all their games on the road right now, so this will be nothing different for them,” Rodriguez said. “They have really good starting pitching. They’ve got some power; they’ve got some speed. They’re a good team.”
The Mountaineers are led on the mound by junior pitchers Conner Dotson and BJ Myers, who have a combined 4-2 record when starting. Dotson leads the team with a 3.27 earned run average while Myers has posted a 4.81 ERA.
On offense, West Virginia sophomore infielder leads the team with 15 runs, 22 hits and three home-runs on the season.
The Bears have played multiple big-name programs and ranked teams this year, including LSU, Ole Miss, South Alabama and Houston. Rodriguez said, at this point, his team has the same mindset going into every game or series.
“Every weekend has been a big weekend for us,” Rodriguez said. “Opening weekend with regards to Big 12-we shouldn’t do anything different in regards to how we approach the game.”
Baylor junior shortstop Tucker Cascadden, who currently leads the Bears in runs batted in at 18, started his career at West Virginia before transferring to a junior college and coming to Baylor this year.
Cascadden is one of 19 new players on the roster this year. Senior catcher Matt Menard says the veterans will have to take lead and mentor the players who have yet to play a conference game.
“We have 18 guys that haven’t played a game in the Big 12 yet,” Menard said. “Thats a big thing for us. We have to go in with confidence and show those younger guys that its no different.”
Hill says the best part about pitching for this team is having a strong defense behind him to make up for mistakes.
“Every time I come out of the bullpen I just try to do my best,” Hill said. “I know I have a defense behind me, so it’s a lot more comfortable pitching this year knowing the guys you have behind you. If you make a mistake up in the zone or down with the ball, you know your guys can make a play behind you.”
Hill credits the chemistry of the team and willingness to work every day for the Bears’ rise to national prominence.
“You’ve heard everyone say that we have good chemistry, but it’s really true,” Hill said. “You can see it on and off the field every day we come. Everyone’s ready to show up and just play baseball.”
The Bears and Mountaineers play at 8 p.m. Friday, 3:05 p.m. Saturday and 11:05 a.m. on Sunday, all at Baylor Ballpark.