Castano leads off the Bears opening weekend

Athletics – Mugs shots – Head shots – Highers Simpsons XTO room – 09/04/2013

Baylor baseball looks to open the season on the right foot this weekend as the Bears host University of Washington for a three-game home series.

The season officially begins at 6:35 p.m. today when junior pitcher Daniel Castano takes the mound against Washington’s Noah Bremer.

For the Bears, including new head coach Steve Rodriguez, the offseason has felt like a lifetime.

“I think everybody’s excited,” Rodriguez said, “I think we’re kind of sick of staring at each other. We need to see what we have got.”

Even for a player not pitching until the second game, opening day brings jitters.

“You can’t put it into words,” said Drew Tolson, starting pitcher for Saturday. “It’s like Christmas for all of us.”

Rodriguez is attempting to bring Baylor baseball back to relevance after the Bears experienced three-straight losing seasons.

Multiple veteran players, such as Tolson, started to notice changes during the offseason.

“It’s been completely different from the past. It’s been the most disciplined hard work I’ve done since I’ve been at Baylor, and I think it’s gonna pay dividends for the season,” Tolson said.

Rodriguez said every player had to earn his spot this offseason.

Everyone had to start fresh, and the level of competition has increased as a result.

“I don’t really have favorites. My favorites are the ones playing that day,” Rodriguez said. “It’s great to have competition. It’s good to have guys who really want to compete.”

Players said they have noticed the increase in competition as well.

“Everybody who has their spot tomorrow may not have it the next day. You’re gonna have to go out there and give it everything you’ve got every game,” Castano said.

The players recognize the job Rodriguez has done in preparing them for the season.

“It all starts with him and he’s done an amazing job of instilling discipline and hard work in us this year,” Tolson said.

With all the hype leading up to the season, the Bears can make a statement this weekend with a series win over Washington.

Baylor faces a tall task against a UW pitching staff that was second in total ERA in the Pac-12 conference last season.

“Their pitching is going to be really good,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to have to compete offensively and make sure we can play defense to give us a chance to win this game.”

After the season opener Friday night, the Bears and the Huskies face off at 3:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday.

On Saturday, Tolson faces freshman Joe DeMers followed by a matchup between junior pitcher Nick Lewis and Washington’s Will Ballowe.

With five freshmen on the roster, Rodriguez hopes to mix young and veteran players.

“I think there’ll be some guys out there that are going to be new, but at the same time there will be familiar faces as well,” Rodriguez said.