By Daniel Hill
The Baylor baseball team starts its first Big 12 Conference home stand this weekend when it hosts the Kansas State Wildcats for a three-game series starting on Thursday night. The series against the Wildcats will be the first three home games in an 11-game home stand for the Bears.
“We’ve been trying to piece each game together, trying to string together a couple of wins,” junior right-handed pitcher Dillon Newman said. “Maybe this home series will allow us to do that.”
Instead of the ordinary Friday, Saturday and Sunday series, Kansas State agreed to play Baylor in a Thursday-through-Saturday series so that both teams could enjoy an off-day for Easter Sunday.
“There’s no better place to get on a roll than at home,” senior right fielder Nathan Orf said. “To get some wins and get the fans behind us would be a great start.”
The Bears are 11-14 overall this season and are 1-1 in Big 12 play after splitting two games against Oklahoma State in Stillwater over this past weekend. The Bears lost the first game 5-0 and then won the second game 5-3 in the 12th inning thanks in part to a clutch double from sophomore center fielder Logan Brown.
“I mean, [Baylor and Oklahoma State] played about the same,” head coach Steve Smith said. “We got a pretty big break on some of the game on Saturday, but we still had to score and a timely double from Logan Brown is something that we haven’t had a lot of. So it was great to get out of there with a split.”
Newman will take the mound for the Bears on Thursday, and he is in the middle of a breakout season for the Bears.
“Man, he’s been in the zone,” Orf said. “Last year, he got behind in the counts a little too much and had to come with the fastball that they knew was coming, and he got hit more. This year he has been able to throw all of his pitches at any time in the count, and he’s been doing great, getting a lot of outs.”
Kansas State is 17-8 overall and 1-1 in Big 12 Conference play. This series against Baylor will be Kansas State’s first conference series on the road this season.
“They play a very aggressive, push-the-envelope type of baseball,” Smith said. “I mean, they play it offensively like I think we need to play more like.”
Smith maintained that Kansas State is a team that can win a baseball war of attrition, not a battle of power.
“They don’t rely on a lot of long ball and they don’t force it,” Smith said. “They are going to force you to throw them out and they’ll force you to field their bunts, not unlike a bunch of the teams that we’ve played. I don’t think that we’ll see anything outside the box for us. It’s just the way that they play the game. They’ll thrive on keeping games close and trying to force you to make a mistake on a ball game that will tip the scale.”
The Bears and Wildcats will play tonight and tomorrow at 6:35 p.m. and then finish off the series at 1:05 p.m. Saturday.
After Easter break, the team will take on Dallas Baptist on Tuesday. After a one-day break, the West Virginia Mountaineers will head to Waco for their first Big 12 series at Baylor Ballpark.