Baseball heads to Frisco for weekend tournament

Baylor baseball gathers in the outfield prior to its season opener with Houston Baptist on Feb. 16. Photo Credit: Baylor Photography

By Max Calderone | Sports Writer

The Baylor baseball team will travel to Frisco this weekend to take part in the 2018 Frisco College Classic, a tournament featuring teams such as California, No. 9 Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech.

The Bears will play three games as part of the round robin style tournament at Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, home of the Frisco RoughRiders, a Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

Baylor (3-3) is coming off a series loss to No. 11 UCLA. Head coach Steve Rodriguez said his team played well, but that they need to sharpen some areas to have more success.

“We need to play a little bit better in regards to just the fundamentals,” Rodriguez said. “We’re playing a little sloppy at times and when you play quality teams, they’ll wait for you to beat yourself and make mistakes.”

The Bears will send sophomore lefty Cody Bradford to the mound on today to face California (5-2). He is 1-0 on the young season and has not allowed an earned run.

Bradford will be tasked with facing a potent California offense that scored 73 runs in just seven games. They are led by sophomore infielder Andrew Vaughn and junior outfielder Jonah Davis, who have combined to hit eight home runs and drive in 29 runs so far this year.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hayden Kettler, who will get the start on Saturday, said California has a dangerous lineup and his team will have to execute in all phases of the game.

“They can really swing it,” Kettler said. “It’s going to be a game where we’ve got to bring it both offensively and defensively.”

Kettler is 1-1 this season with a 0.75 ERA and is coming off the best start of his Baylor career, after throwing seven innings and only allowing three hits and one earned run at UCLA on Sunday. He’ll get the ball when the Bears face No. 9 Texas A&M (9-0) on Saturday.

Kettler said his approach stays the same, regardless of opponent, and added there is nothing extraordinary about going up against the Aggies.

“I think every game is pretty special,” Kettler said. “It’s going to be fun to get to play against them, but it’s just like any other game. We’re really excited.”

Texas A&M boasts one of the best young players in college baseball in sophomore second baseman Braden Shewmake, who is hitting .342 with one home run and 12 RBI. They also have one of the deepest pitching staffs in the nation, led by junior righty Stephen Kolek (2-0, 0.77).

Rodriguez has not yet named a starter for Sunday’s matchup against Louisiana Tech (5-4). He said right-handed junior Kyle Hill, who has made two starts already this season, may get an opportunity to pitch out of the bullpen in either of the first two games of the tournament.

“We’re trying to make sure we maximize the ability of some of our guys, and Kyle is one of those guys who is very valuable at the end of a game,” Rodriguez said. “If we can capitalize on that early on in the weekend, then we will. If not, then he’ll be able to get a start on Sunday for us.”

While pitching has been the strength early on for the Bears, the offense has been lacking. Baylor is hitting just .237 as a team, scoring a mere 19 runs in six games.

Sophomore first baseman Andy Thomas has been a catalyst at the plate so far for the Bears, hitting .429 with a team high nine hits. He said he is excited for the challenge this weekend presents, but his team will prepare just like normal.

“All three teams are going to be tough,” Thomas said. “We take this just like any other weekend, we’re going to go in, prepare, and get after it the best we can.”

Baylor’s games will start at 3 p.m. on today and Sunday and 6 p.m. on Saturday. All games can be watched on the official Frisco College Classic YouTube and Facebook live stream.