By DJ Ramirez | Sports Writer
After a midweek test against Dallas Baptist, Baylor baseball is ready for its first road trip of the season. The Bears head to Houston to compete in the Shriner’s College Classic, which will be hosted at Minute Maid Park.
The Bears are looking to extend their early eight-game winning streak, but to also have some fun visiting the children at the Shriner’s Hospital. The team traveled straight to the hospital on Thursday before moving on to the park for practice. Head coach Steve Rodriguez said the service aspect of the tournament is just as important for the team as playing baseball.
“It’s just such a special thing because you get a chance to see some of the gifts that we have as athletes and people, being able to be out here with some of the things that other people go through where you kind of go, ‘Wow, those are real issues,’” Rodriguez said. “You might be in a slump or go 0-for-4 and think that’s an issue, but there’s some people who are battling some bigger things, and I just love the fact that our guys really embrace that … and I’m really excited to see them get back down to the hospital.”
Baylor will open the weekend against Texas A&M, which they faced last year in the 2018 Frisco College Baseball Classic, dropping the game 5-4. The Bears will have to prepare for strong pitching in Aggies junior lefty John Doxakis, who’s made two starts for A&M so far this season and sports a 0.00 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 13 innings. He posted an 8-5 record and a 2.70 ERA in 2018 and was crucial to the Aggies’ postseason run. Rodriguez said the Bears will have a challenge in A&M’s team.
“They’re a very talented team. Doxakis is a great pitcher that we’re going to have to face on Friday,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but I’m really confident in the way our guys are playing right now.”
The Bears are 8-0 going into the tournament. Baylor is hitting .375, slugging .584 and hold a .469 on-base percentage. Davis Wendzel and Davion Downey lead the pack with .516 and .418 averages respectively and have 10 RBIs each. Downey said the team is looking to carry the motivation form Tuesday into Minute Maid this weekend.
“This is a great motivation going into Shriner’s this weekend,” Downey said. “I believe we keep carrying the motivation from the dugout, and all the excitement and everything. … [We want to] just treat every game the same, just keep the same energy and keep playing the game we play.”
Tuesday saw junior first baseman Andy Thomas make his first start of the season. Thomas sat out the first two weeks due to illness but made his 2019 debut in the designated hitter spot. Rodriguez said Thomas could have been back on the field on Tuesday but that he wanted to be cautious and ease him back into the dynamic.
Baylor will kick off the Shriners Classic against the Aggies at 7 p.m. on Friday. The Bears play Rice in a 3 p.m. match on Saturday and will finish off the tournament against Texas State at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.