By DJ Ramirez | Sports Writer
After a series sweep of the College of the Holy Cross in their opening weekend, Baylor baseball is looking forward to facing Cornell with confidence for a three-game homestand despite the loss of junior catcher Shea Langeliers to a wrist injury.
Langeliers, who started the first three games against Holy Cross last weekend, suffered from a broken hamate bone and will be out for approximately two to five weeks as he heals up. In the meantime, the Bears will have redshirt freshman Kyle Harper stepping in as catcher. Harper had the start on Sunday in the series finale against the Crusaders as well as the first hit of his college career.
While the team will miss having their star catcher behind the plate, fifth year center fielder Richard Cunningham said they’re just as confident that Harper will be able to step up to the role.
“I think it starts with Shea is a stud. He’s as good as there is, and we’re going to be bummed to not have him for a few weeks,” Cunningham said. “But if you were ever to see how hard Kyle Harper – and not just Kyle Harper, but any backup on this team – prepares, it would give you so much confidence. … So it doesn’t even make you fret when Shea goes down, because you know Harp is up and ready to go and he’s been working for this moment, and I’m excited for him.”
Harper was not the only player to get his debut in the opening series. Freshman pitcher Anderson Needham made his first collegiate start on Sunday as well. He pitched 4.2 innings and struck out six batters, allowing only one run. According to head coach Steve Rodriguez, Needham will have plenty of chances to keep improving in the future.
“If that kid comes out and does that and has the ability to command the strike zone, I’m telling you, he has the chance to be something really special in the future,” Rodriguez said.
Even with all the new talent, Baylor’s veterans continued to perform as expected both offensively and defensively. Cunningham, sophomore shortstop Nick Loftin and junior third baseman Davis Wendzel set the tone at the top of the lineup which according to senior second baseman Josh Bissonette, allows the rest of the team to go in confident behind them.
“Having guys like Richie and Nick start off the game hot, we build off of it,” Bissonette said. “We see that they can get on, get hits, and it doesn’t matter if the guy’s up there throwing 98 or if he’s throwing 84. They kind of do a good job of setting the tone, and we just follow in their footsteps.”
The Bears will have junior pitcher Hayden Kettler on the mound Friday, moving junior lefty Cody Bradford to the back of the rotation due to shoulder soreness. Sophomore left-hander Tyler Thomas will have the start on Saturday. According to Rodriguez, the coaching staff wants to be cautious and not push their players past the point of comfort to prevent further injury.
Baylor’s opponent this weekend, the Big Red of Cornell, will be playing their first series of the season, making their first trip to Waco in 22 years. It’s also their second time facing a Big 12 team after a trip to West Virginia in 2005. Cornell finished the 2018 season with a 14-24-1 overall record and 9-12 record in the Ivy League. Rodriguez said that the Bears are not sure exactly what to expect from Cornell, but that he’s more worried about how his team will adjust.
“Don’t know a whole lot about them, with regard to what they bring to the table offense, pitching-wise,” Rodriguez said. “I know it’s their first weekend. I’m just more worried about us, and we’ll just try to adjust accordingly to what they’re giving us.”
The Bears will start the series against Cornell at 6:35 p.m. on Friday. First pitch for game two is at 3:05 p.m. on Saturday and the series finale will begin at 12:05 p.m. on Sunday.