By Max Calderone | Sports Writer
With a hectic weekend across all Baylor athletics, a rivalry series between Baylor and TCU highlights the action at Baylor Ballpark.
The Bears come in having won five of their last six games, improving to 19-17 on the season. However, they currently sit in seventh place in the Big 12 conference standings with a modest 3-9 record in Big 12 games.
Junior second baseman Josh Bissonette (.254, 4 HR, 20 RBI) said he feels like the team is beginning to get things figured out and has found a rhythm heading into rivalry weekend.
“Every win that we can get is something that we can build off of, especially right now late in the season,” Bissonette said. “We’re really starting to pick things up as a team and we’re starting to gel.”
Redshirt junior outfielder Richard Cunningham (.297, 5 HR, 21 RBI), who has served as the team’s designated hitter for most of the season, has homered in two straight games. He leads an offensive attack that has scored 44 runs in its last six games.
Cunningham said going on a bit of a win streak has contributed to the club’s success at the plate and feels like the team is prepared for the stretch run of the season.
“Winning does a lot to settle everyone back in,” Cunningham said. “We’ve done the rollercoaster ride of this season. We’ve started to take the pressure off ourselves and understand that the scoreboard will take care of itself.”
TCU enters the series at 19-14, 6-5 in conference play, having battled the injury bug all season long. Star junior first baseman Luken Baker (.319, 9 HR, 26 RBI) will undergo surgery today for a broken leg that will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the year.
Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez said Baker’s injury is a frustrating one for TCU, but that the Bears will continue to attack the Horned Frogs batting order the same as if he were playing.
“I hate that for the kid,” Rodriguez said. “I think he’s been great for college baseball, I think he’s been great for the Big 12 conference, and obviously he’s done really well for TCU. He was just one part of the cog in that system.”
TCU will also be without its ace pitcher, right-handed redshirt junior Jared Janczak (1-1, 3.00). Bissonette said regardless of who suits up for the Horned Frogs, they remain a tough matchup.
“No matter who they have on the field, they’re always going to compete,” Bissonette said. “Obviously they’re an amazing program and I’m sure they’re going to come out with fire and try to beat us, but we’re going to do the same.”
Baylor will send sophomore lefty Cody Bradford (3-4, 3.51) to the mound for game one, followed by sophomore right-hander Hayden Kettler (4-3, 3.38) in game two and freshman left-hander Tyler Thomas (1-2, 2.35) is set to take the ball in the series finale.
Rodriguez said his team will have its hands full with a well-rounded Horned Frogs lineup.
“[They’ve got] phenomenal pitching, great athletes, very good on the basepaths, they do a lot of things really well,” Rodriguez said. “Regardless of what the numbers say, I know they’re going to come out and give us one heck of a weekend.”
The three-game series is set to begin Friday at 6:35 p.m. with game two scheduled for 3:05 p.m. Saturday and the series finale taking place at 1:05 p.m. Sunday.
Cunningham said the entire team is excited and looking forward to the rivalry matchup.
“Any time you play TCU, it’s a blast,” Cunningham said. “It’s Baylor and TCU. The fact that we get it at home, it’s beautiful out, it’s springtime, it’s what you live for. Count your blessings and enjoy these kinds of weekends.”