Bears head to Fort Worth with momentum

GOING FOR THE OUTSTRETCHED VICTORY Junior right handed pitcher Joe Heinemann throws a pitch in a mid-week game against Stephen F. Austin on April 18 in Waco. Baylor won the game 2-1 thanks to back-to-back homeruns from Kameron Esthay and David Wendzel in the bottom of the ninth inning. Baylor aims to win its second Big 12 series of the season against TCU this weekend. Photo credit: Dayday Wynn

By Ben Everett | Sports Writer

Baylor baseball heads to Fort Worth to face the top team in the Big 12, TCU, in a weekend series.

The Bears (23-14, 5-7) are seventh in the Big 12 standings but can make up ground with a series win over the Horned Frogs (28-7, 9-3).

The Bears have won three of their last four including a series win over Texas and a thrilling comeback win over Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday.

Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez says the team can sense some momentum following recent success.

“You see it, and you can feel it,” Rodriguez said. “You see our guys having more confidence. I just want them to understand they have what it takes to win.”

Rodriguez says freshman third baseman Davis Wendzel, the hero in the midweek win over SFA, should continue to improve behind the plate.

“He was one of our best hitters coming in to the season,” Rodriguez said. “He plays really well when he’s relaxed. He has the ability to be something special for us in the future.”

Wendzel is sixth on the team in batting average at .272 and has 14 runs batted in and 2 homeruns in just 81 at-bats.

“We need all the momentum we can get going into this series,” Wendzel said, “but if we play well, we’ll do fine. Obviously TCU is a great team; we just have to be ready.”

On the defensive side, the Bears will look to lean on the strong bullpen of junior Troy Montemayor, sophomore Kyle Hill and senior Drew Robertson, who all have earned run averages below 2.

Meanwhile, the starting rotation of junior Montana Parsons, senior Nick Lewis and freshman Cody Bradford has a combined record of 10-7 but will face a strong hitting team in TCU.

Rodriguez says that the Horned Frogs don’t have any glaring weaknesses, so Baylor will have to play error-free.

“They can really run — they have a ton of stolen bases,” Rodriguez said. “Their starting pitching is phenomenal as well as their bullpen. And they can hit. They are a very well-balanced team.”

The TCU trio of Austen Wade, Nolan Brown and and Luken Baker all have batting averages over .300. Baker leads the team with 31 RBIs and seven HRs.

The Horned Frogs’ pitching staff is led by starter Jared Janczak who owns a 2.25 ERA and a perfect 6-0 record in nine starts.

Parsons says the rivalry with TCU makes playing in those games more fun because more people attend.

“It’s well — known,” Parsons said. “It’s a lot of fun to be a part of, and I’m glad to be a part of it. Usually the fans sell out, and it gets crazy. It makes it more fun.”

Baylor leads the all-time series 142-121, but TCU holds the edge 59-50 in Fort Worth and has won two in a row against the Bears.

The Bears and Horned Frogs play at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Following the weekend series, the Bears return to Waco to take on Texas State at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at Baylor Ballpark.