BU looks to beat Raiders’ young arms
By Krista Pirtle
The No. 14 Bears (12-5) baseball team is riding a seven-game winning streak as it opens conference play with a three game series against Texas Tech (12-6) this weekend in Waco.
The action starts at 6:30 p.m. today, continues at 3 p.m. Saturday and concludes with a 1 p.m. Sunday game.
“I think they’d be far less confident if we were on a seven-game losing streak,” head coach Steve Smith said. “I think they all realize that yesterday is yesterday and every game is just so different, you have to be ready to play.”
Those yesterdays are full of great moments for Baylor – sophomore Max Muncy’s walk-off grand slam against Rice on March 6, junior Logan Verrett’s 14 strikeouts on the mound last Friday against Louisiana Tech and senior Chris Slater’s walk-off single against Florida International Tuesday to give Smith his 600th career win.
Slater said Baylor is coming into the opening weekend of conference play with great momentum.
“You know, momentum is huge in baseball,” Slater said. “Just having some success in the past to build on is very big, so hopefully we will continue. I think we’re playing good team baseball and winning in different ways.”
Baylor’s No. 14 ranking by Baseball America is the highest since being ranked No. 9 in April 2009. It was never ranked last year.
For Texas Tech, the question arises as to how it will play in Waco, this being its first road trip of the season. They have never won a confernence-opening series on the road.
The first game of the series will feature Verrett on the mound for the Bears while rookie freshman David Paiz will make his first career start for the Raiders.
Verrett is coming off of his complete game where he threw to one batter over the minimum, striking out 14 and allowing only one hit. For the season as a whole, Verrett has pitched and started four games, accumulating a 2.55 ERA with 30 strikeouts and only six walks.
The second matchup will have sophomore Josh Turley pitching for Baylor and freshman Trey Masek for the Raiders.
Masek has already started to get comfortable on the rubber, holding the lowest ERA for the regular rotation of Red Raiders pitchers at 2.37 in six games and notching 15 strikeouts and seven walks on the season.
Turley has a 4.22 ERA, and this game will be his fourth start on the season.
The final matchup between these two teams will have two juniors starting on the mound, Trent Blank for Baylor and Robbie Kilcrease, who underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery last season, for the Red Raiders.
“They’ve got some really good position players back,” Smith said. “It’s interesting going into this weekend looking at who they’re projecting to start with a couple of freshmen getting their first start. There’s not a whole lot you can know, but they have adequate offense. They have young arms that are good arms, but they’re just young.”
Verrett said beating any Big 12 opponent is no easy task.
“They’re going to be tough,” Verrett said. “It’s opening weekend of Big 12 play so they’ll be up to it for sure. We just hope we get a good fan base here [that will] get us riled up to play.”