By DJ Ramirez | Sports Writer
Baylor baseball will face Holy Cross in a four-game series to open the season starting at 6:35 p.m. Friday.
According to junior third baseman Davis Wendzel, the team is ready to face some new competition after scrimmaging against each other for most of the fall.
“We’re done with playing each other and we’re happy about it,” Wendzel said. “We’ve played each other too many times and we’re ready to start playing some other people.”
There has been a lot of excitement brewing over this year’s team as the Bears will see their entire starting lineup from last year return to the field, as well as their starting rotation. Head coach Steve Rodriguez said that while the level of excitement is good for the team, he would like to them relax as they play through the series.
“I want to see them relax as quickly as possible,” Rodriguez said. “It’s good to be excited. It’s good to be anxious. If there’s any other feeling than that, it’s probably a little more worrisome. I want to make sure that they go out there and execute and regardless of who we’re playing, how we’re going to play is going to really determine how we execute.”
While the Bears had to say goodbye to their “Old Guy” bullpen last year, their new arms still have some experienced leaders to guide them into the new season, including senior pitcher Kyle Hill, who will be Baylor’s closer on the mound. Hill said that he’s not worried about the bullpen’s lack of experience and that he’s enjoyed teaching the younger players how to prepare for the game.
“There’s plenty of shoes to fill in the bullpen. I know we have the guys to do it, as a matter of fact, I know we have the talent. The experience is just something we lack back there, but I know as soon as they get out there and get the job done, we’ll be just fine,” Hill said.
As a junior, Hill played 22 games out of the bullpen and holds the record for fewest hits per nine innings at 4.89. He was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association 2019 Stopper of the Year Award watch list. Rodriguez said that Hill has become a real leader in the bullpen since he already knows what the expectations are.
“He’s such a great young man that he comes out every day and is working with these young kids and talking to them and just handles himself on a different level,” Rodriguez said.
Baylor enters the season ranked at No. 2 in the Big 12 preseason poll, right behind Texas Tech and is ranked in the top 25 in all the major national polls. They open the season at home against the Holy Cross Crusaders, a Patriot League team from Worcester, Mass. Rodriguez said that they don’t have much information on the Crusaders but that it won’t affect Baylor’s game plan going in.
“I don’t care who we’re playing,” Rodriguez said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re playing [NCAA National Champions] Oregon State or Holy Cross … it doesn’t really matter, we need to play well. We just need to throw strikes and play good defense. We need to get some two-out hits and hopefully it loosens us up and it lets us play free this weekend.”