By Jeffrey Swindoll
Baylor baseball, coming off a series sweep dealt by the Texas State Bobcats over the weekend and a midweek win over UT-Arlington, returns to Big 12 with a road series against No. 23 Texas Tech (19-14, 4-5) in Lubbock this weekend.
The youth of the Bears (13-19, 4-5) has had to fill-in for the upperclassmen because of injuries. Some of Baylor’s inconsistent form this season reflects the inexperience of the roster, head coach Smith said, ultimately claiming his team is either “too young or not good enough” after the Bears’ 11-0 loss to the University of Houston.
Baylor’s underclassmen make up 64 percent of the team’s at-bats and 65 percent of team’s innings pitched. At the plate or on the mound, the freshmen and sophomores, prepared or not, have seen more time than the upperclassmen this season.
The team’s statistical leaders in doubles (sophomore outfielder Darryn Sheppard) RBI (freshman outfielder Cameron Esthay), home runs (sophomore first baseman Aaron Dodson and Esthay), ERA (sophomore pitcher Daniel Castano) and starter wins (freshman pitcher Theron Kay) are all underclassmen.
Castano will likely start tonight, judging from the fact that he has started for the Bears on Friday all season. In the same way, sophomores Drew Tolson and Nick Lewis will start on Saturday and Sunday.
In the Bears’ 10-7 win over UT-Arlington on Tuesday, Baylor’s young guns jolted a revitalization to the Bears’ offense. Recently, the Bears are enjoying their time on the diamond this season. Smith spoke highly of the team’s training session on Monday, saying he has “definitely [seen] some carryover” from the Bears’ more upbeat attitude at practice this week.
“We had a good day of work [Monday] offensively, and I don’t say that often,” Smith said. “[Monday’s practice] was a different day that I haven’t seen this group of guys have in a practice. You usually don’t see it during the season. It was unique.”
Baylor appears to have overcome its issues with hitting and morale for the time being, however, the Bears’ record on the road is a different story. Baylor is 2-11 from Baylor Ballpark this season.
Baylor has won all its Big 12 conference series this season except its 3-0 series loss to TCU in Fort Worth earlier in the year. Boasting a 4-5 record in conference play, the Bears sit in a three-way tie, including Texas Tech, for fourth place in the Big 12.
“What it’s going to come down to is can we find a way to win games on the road, particularly at Lubbock and Oklahoma State,” Smith said. “Just play good baseball, control what you can control. If you play the game well enough, then you’ll get some breaks along the way. It’s when you don’t play well that you get breaks, but they don’t ever help you.”
This weekend could be critical in the Bears’ conference campaign to put them above .500 and in a more competitive position in the league.
“We know we’re in the middle of it, but we also know each team coming up is going to be pretty hard,” senior infielder Duncan Wendel said. “We’re just going to take it one game at a time and go from there.”
The Red Raiders lead the all-time series against Baylor 78-77 overall. In Lubbock, the Bears are well under the .500 mark with a 24-47 record.
Texas Tech will be hosting its third-straight conference series on Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park. The Red Raiders are coming off a 5-4 midweek loss to Oral Roberts on Tuesday. This weekend will determine a shift in the standings.
Start times for the series are 6:30 p.m. on Friday and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. All three games will be aired on FOX Sports Southwest Plus.