Baseball heads west for showdown with Washington

Baylor Baseball takes to the road. This weekend marks the first time the Bears have traveled out of the state of Texas this season. The team anticipates the West Coast weather to be a challenge, but look forward to the chance to grow. Photo credit: Jessica Hubble

No. 21 Baylor baseball will try to break free from its recent slide with a three-game weekend series in Seattle, Wash., against the University of Washington at Husky Ballpark.

The Bears have lost six of their last nine games, including their first two series of Big 12 play against West Virginia and Oklahoma. They also suffered their first mid-week game loss on Tuesday night, 15-9 to the University of Texas-San Antonio.

Despite the results over the past two weeks, the Bears are still supremely confident heading into this weekend’s showdown with the Huskies.

Sophomore second baseman Josh Bissonette says that sometimes the results are simply just a byproduct of baseball and that the team’s confidence is not wavering at all.

“I’m proud of our guys. This whole fall we’ve taught ourselves to finish,” Bissonette said. “Sometimes the results aren’t always in our favor, and we can wipe it off and come back the next day ready to work. I think our confidence level is very high. I don’t think these past couple losses have brought us down or anything, but we are really looking forward to this weekend, and I think we are going to do well.”

For head coach Steve Rodriguez, this will be the fourth season that he has squared off with Washington, as his Pepperdine Waves faced the Huskies the previous two seasons before he came to Baylor.

Baylor and Washington opened the 2016 season with Washington taking two of three from Baylor at Baylor Ballpark, 7-2 and 7-1. The Bears took the middle game of the series 9-5.

Rodriguez believes that this midseason trip will be good for his team as they have not yet left the state of Texas and the weather and field conditions will cause the Bears to face some new challenges.

“The [West Coast] offenses are run differently, pitching a little bit different and getting away, being on the road, having to room with each other and go eat with each other — there are a lot of great things that happen when you get on the road and rely on each other. It’s good for team camaraderie and team building,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a turf field up there and it’s a slow turf. Luckily, we practice there tomorrow night just to get a feel for it. It’s going to be cold and rainy, exactly what you picture Seattle weather is supposed to be, but I’m excited about it.”

The Huskies enter with a record of 14-9 overall and 4-2 in PAC-12 play. Washington has been considerably better at home this season, posting an 8-3 mark compared to 6-6 on the road.

The Huskies do not overwhelm opposing pitchers with power as they have only hit nine home runs on the season, but Rodriguez says the pitching staff and the aggressive offensive approach is enough to give any team fits.

“They’re a talented group, especially their starting pitching. They’re aggressive on offensive,” Rodriguez said. “The catcher is really good, to be honest. We have to keep playing a good brand of baseball.”

The catcher in high esteem is junior Joey Morgan. Morgan hits at a .329 clip with 15 runs driven in and 25 hits including eight doubles that is tied for tops on the team. Senior outfielders MJ Hubbs and Jack Meggs are both well above the .300 line as well, combining for three home runs, 12 doubles and three triples.

Junior pitcher Noah Bremer leads the pitching staff with 1.89 earned run average in four starts. The right-hander has struck out 42 and allowed just eight earned runs thus far. Sophmore Joe DeMers and freshman Jordan Jones have been equally as good for the Huskies this season, allowing 12 earned runs a piece in 11 combined starts.

Baylor has been quite effective with its weekend staff in senior Nick Lewis, junior Montana Parsons and freshman lefty Cody Bradford — performances that keep Bissonette and the defense on its toes and supremely confident.

“Playing defense behind Nick Lewis, Montana [Parsons] and [Cody] Bradford — we know they’re going to put the ball in play, and they’re going to throw strikes and do whatever they can to get ahead in count,” Bissonette said. “Those guys just go out and compete everyday. That’s not an issue, and we love playing defense behind them and they put us in a good position to win.”

Rodriguez knows Washington will be a stiff challenge, but he hopes his guys will respond well to the challenge and continue to compete at a high level.

“We’re going to have our hands full, there’s no doubt about that. I think it will be a good challenge for our guys with some different pressures,” Rodriguez said.

Baylor and Washington will square off in game one beginning at 6 p.m. CT Friday at Husky Park.

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