By Jeffrey Swindoll
Baylor baseball’s reputation on the road has not been great this season. Baylor has yet to win a conference game, much less a series away from Baylor Ballpark this year.
The Bears (14-22, 4-8) face No. 17 Oklahoma State (24-12, 8-4) this weekend after the series was changed from a Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule to a Saturday-Sunday-Monday at Reynolds Stadium in Stillwater, Okla.
Oklahoma State is tied atop the conference standings in contrast to the Bears’ second-to-last status in the Big 12 this year, only above Kansas’ 3-6 conference record. The Cowboys dropped a series to the bottom-ranked Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kan., last weekend and lost a one-off game to Oral Roberts on Tuesday.
The Bears went visited Lubbock and suffered a 3-0 series sweep to No. 23 Texas Tech, but added a midweek win over Incarnate Word on Tuesday.
Head coach Steve Smith, in his 21st season the head coach of the Bears, has been challenged with young roster and injuries to some of his key players this season. At times in postgame interviews, Smith said he is baffled by some of the in-game decisions his players have made this season, under and upperclassmen alike.
Against Incarnate Word, the Bears’ offense was lacking in consistent offensive production, only scoring two runs in the first inning and five hits in the whole game. It turned out to be enough to trump the Cardinals on Tuesday.
Most of the lineup on Tuesday featured lower-string players, so the Bears that play Oklahoma State this weekend aren’t exactly the same Bears that played on Tuesday. However, against Oklahoma State, the Bears should expect their chances of winning to be much slimmer if their offense is as lackluster as it was against Incarnate Word.
Probable starting pitchers for the Bears are sophomore Daniel Castano (2-4, 3.33 ERA) on Saturday, sophomore Drew Tolson (1-6, 4.17 ERA) on Sunday and sophomore Nick Lewis (1-1, 5.75 ERA) on Monday. Castano and Tolson each started for the Bears in conference play for all of this season.
Starting on the mound for the Cowboys are right-hander Joe Perrin (3-3. 3.68 ERA) on Saturday, left-hander Michael Freeman (6-1, 1.29 ERA) on Sunday and left-hander Tyler Nurdin (1-2, 2.67 ERA) on Monday.
Under Smith the Bears have not lost a series to Oklahoma State since 2007. With the odds really stacked against them, the Bears’ favorable record against the Cowboys will be put to the test. All games will be radio broadcast live on Waco’s 1660 ESPN Central Texas.