By Michael Haag | Sports Writer
Opening day has arrived for Baylor baseball, and the excitement continues to flow. They’ll square off against the University of Maryland on Friday in the first of seven- straight at home. The team will carry a vengeance from last spring’s brutal end.
Being one team shy of making last year’s tournament was tough for the Bears. Fifth- year senior pitcher Tyler Thomas said he and the squad will reflect on that to build forward.
“Our motto this year is ‘One.’ We were one team away,” Thomas said. “We were one game away. Maybe we were one pitch away, one hit away, we don’t know. But we’re not going to let that one thing stop us this year.”
“We didn’t hear our name called [last year],” McKenzie said. “We know there’s a lot of talent on this team and that we are very capable of being one of those 64 teams and making a good run. We’re definitely looking forward to getting this thing rolling this weekend.”
Despite majority of his life revolving around the sport, head coach Steve Rodriguez is as excited as ever to get the season going.
“You’d have to be numb to life to not have any kind of excitement,” Rodriguez said. “For me personally, opening day is one of the greatest times because this is what you work [for] throughout the fall, throughout the summer.”
Rodriguez and his staff scheduled Power Five opponents to open the year, making it difficult to get off to a hot start. Thomas believes it
will help the team see where they stand.
“Facing a good team shows where we’re at,” Thomas said. “We’re going to be exposed this weekend. If we can’t do something, they’re going to let us know. And if we can, we’re going to find out we’re good.”
Playing at home for the opening slate is a major boost as well. McKenzie said the group tends to play better at Baylor Ballpark and knows the Terrapins will bring their best effort.
“Definitely helps us out at home to have the home field advantage, and we do play well here based on our past few seasons,” McKenzie said. “It’s good talent and they’re going to be ready to play us so we have to be able to match it and then be ready to compete.”
For the weekend, Rodriguez wants the group to ease into the series and do what they’re expected to do. He said the team needs some time to figure out some pieces and where guys belong, but knows over time they’ll get it down.
“Obviously winning the series this weekend is a big deal,” Rodriguez said. “But for us, it’s just finding the pieces that we need to put in the right spot, playing great defense, which I know we’re capable of, and then allowing these good starting pitchers to do what they’re supposed to do.”
Baylor will look to get the jitters out when they play Maryland, the first game in the series scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Baylor Ballpark. The other two games are at 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. All contests can be viewed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
“[The] first game is always a really interesting time for all teams,” Rodriguez said. “Then it’s just a matter of how quickly the guys can calm down and be able to play baseball.”