By Matt Larsen and Krista Pirtle
Baylor baseball and softball are both nearing the homestretch, and each squad has its eyes firmly fixed on postseason berths.
Baseball faces Cornhuskers
With a 5-1 win over the University of Texas San Antonio Tuesday, Baylor baseball (22-20, 7-11) will look for its next foothold at the University of Nebraska this weekend.
At seventh in the Big 12, the Bears seek a solid grip in the 10-team conference race from which to propel themselves to a solid finish during their last three conference matchups.
With the No. 14 and No. 19 teams in the country in Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to close out the Big 12, the road trip to Nebraska (26-16, 5-9) this weekend becomes that much more important.
The Bears come off a non-conference win in which they manufactured five runs off seven hits and got a double from freshman Lawton Langford when they needed it but didn’t have many hits to spare.
“That is really the only key hit we got all game,” head coach Steve Smith said of Langford’s 2-RBI double.
When it came to the mound, Smith was a little more pleased.
Junior starter Brooks Pinckard held the roadrunners to one run in his 5.1 innings of work before senior Jon Ringenberg and sophomore Max Garner combined for 3.2 innings of scoreless relief.
“Hopefully, we can get some momentum from this,” Pinckard said. “We played great, it is not like we played bad baseball and got a win. We just have to go into this weekend with the same confidence we had tonight.”
Sitting right behind the Bears in the conference standings, the Huskers also see this weekend as a virtual must-win series if they hope to be playing in the postseason.
Junior Cody Asche leads his team from the plate with a .630 slugging percentage and conference-best 19 doubles.
On the mound, the Huskers feature a trio of young starters.
Left-handed freshman Logan Ehlers (1-1, 3.65 ERA) is expected to start Friday’s 6:35 p.m. matchup against junior righty Logan Verrett (4-4, 3.69 ERA).
Saturday’s game, with an opening pitch at 2:05 in the afternoon, pits freshman Jon Keller (2-4, 2.66 ERA) against sophomore Josh Turley (2-3, 4.25 ERA).
After his first career start boded well for the Bears Tuesday, Pinckard finds himself facing sophomore Tyler Niederklein in the Sunday spot of the weekend rotation. Niederklein is slated to throw the first pitch at 1:05 p.m. Sunday at Haymarket Park.
Softball seeks third place finish
Approaching its last five games before postseason play begins, the Baylor softball team has hopes to finish third in the Big 12 after being picked in the preseason to finish sixth.
“I think postseason wise we’re OK but you got to win ballgames,” Baylor softball head coach Glenn Moore said. “You want to finish in the top half of the conference, and we have a shot to finish third still. That’s very respectable with the strength of this conference.”
Currently, Baylor is No. 5 behind Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M and is mathematically eliminated from first or second place contention. The Lady Bears split games with both Missouri and Texas A&M while being swept by OSU and losing their only game to Texas Wednesday night.
Nationally speaking, to finish in the top half of the Big 12 would be quite the accomplishment as seven out of the ten teams are nationally ranked: No. 3 Texas, No. 8 Missouri, No. 14 Oklahoma, No. 17. Baylor and Oklahoma State, No. 19 Nebraska and No. 21 Texas A&M.
First up on the remainder of Baylor’s conference schedule is a two game road trip to take on Iowa State.
“We need to take two like we’re supposed to,” junior outfielder Kayce Walker said. “We’re on the downhill stretch. We need to get everything together before we go into post season.”
From the mound, redshirt sophomore Whitney Canion carries her squad with a 20-8 mark, a 1.24 ERA and a conference leading three saves.
From the plate, senior Dani Leal leads the team with 13 homers, 34 RBIs and .763 slugging percentage.
After that, the Lady Bears return back to Waco for their final series at Getterman Stadium as they host Nebraska May 7-8. Their last conference game will be a much-wanted rematch against Texas in Austin May 15.