Brutal schedule continues, baseball headed to Houston for Shriner Classic

Sophomore infielder Tre Richardson and the rest of Baylor baseball is excited to head down to Houston this weekend for the 2022 Shriner Classic at Minute Maid Park. Grace Fortier | Photographer

By Michael Haag | Sports Writer

Baylor baseball will participate in the 2022 Shriners Children’s College Classic for the second time in the last three years, starting this weekend at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The Bears (4-4) continue what has been a brutal schedule, with 2022 being the first season since 1952 in which 11 of Baylor’s first 13 opponents currently compete in Power Five conferences. Head coach Steve Rodriguez takes the blame for this schedule and thinks it will only bode well for conference play later this spring.

“I take full responsibility for it,” Rodriguez said. “I just wanted our guys to get tested and they’re definitely doing that because once we get into conference [play], this is what it’s going to be. I just wanted to try something different. We have a lot of quality teams and [we will] head down [to] Minute Maid [Park] and play three teams that are going to be in a regional [or] hosting regionals in Omaha, just a good chance to kind of see where we stand.”

He also said the plan with a schedule like this is to fire up his team and inspire them to play up to the competition all the time.

“Well, the hope is as soon as they see the schedule, you want them to get excited about it,” Rodriguez said. “You want them to know that they’re going to be challenged from the first pitch to the last pitch. I think when they saw the schedule, they recognized that they’re going to have to come out from the first weekend to the last weekend ready to play because we have a lot of quality teams on that schedule. And there’s really no breaks for them. When they step on the field, they have to be ready to go.”

That plan has worked for sophomore infielder Tre Richardson who said playing such tough competition builds this team up to who they want to be and allows them to prove people wrong.

“It definitely makes you get up for games and we’re able to go out there and be like, ‘We deserve our respect,’” Richardson said. “I think playing teams like that really helps us with our confidence because we go out and play teams like that and we have the confidence in ourselves to be like, ‘We can beat anybody,’ and that’s the biggest thing for us.”

The team is also glad to be back on the road with less COVID-19 restrictions, being the first time for some. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Will Rigney said he is thrilled for the squad to feel like one unified team again.

“I think it’s going make a huge difference,” Rigney said. “To the few games I went to, they were out of town. We had to take two buses, we had to wear masks, we had to sit far away from everybody. It was weird with hotel arrangements. You couldn’t see everybody, so I think being back all together and kind of being one team, it’s going to make us a lot closer, so it’ll be good.”

Rodriguez shares the excitement to be back on the road, as he is ready for the tests that will be imposed against their competition at a neutral site.

“I love being on the road,” Rodriguez said. “I think it creates a great atmosphere for team camaraderie, and that for me is always a big thing. It’s always good to go on the road and get tested in a lot different ways. But, going down to Shriners, everybody’s going to be on the road, so it’s not like anybody’s going to be at home. For us, it’s just a matter of going out there and playing well because it doesn’t matter if you’re home or on the road. [If] you don’t play well, anything can happen.”

With the recent success against then-No. 23 Duke University, Richardson said this team has the ability to defeat anyone.

“We know that when we play our best brand of baseball and play what [our] abilities let us do, we can go out there and beat anyone,” Richardson said. “I think we proved that pretty well this weekend, taking the first one Friday and then coming out and winning the first game of the doubleheader on Sunday and doing what we did to their pitching. I think that was big, not only [for] our confidence, but for across the nation just knowing that ‘Okay, Baylor is that team.’”

Headed to Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, Rodriguez couldn’t be more pumped about the venue and how much it will prepare his guys for their aspirations of a postseason.

“It’s fun to be able to play in those kinds of environments, you’re going to have anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 people there,” Rodriguez said. “I think it’s fun because it sets them up to understand exactly what it’s going to be like to go into the postseason. You’re going to have three different teams we have to prepare for. You’re not going to be facing the same team twice, and so you really have to be sure you’re making adjustments on the fly as we go, because by the time you might get ready, it’s too late and the game’s over. Now we have to prepare for the next team.”

The Bears will prepare for Friday’s 11 a.m. matchup against newly-ranked No. 23 University of California, Los Angeles. This comes before Saturday and Sunday contests against No. 17 University of Tennessee at 3 p.m. and No. 7 Louisiana State University at 7 p.m., respectively. All contests can be watched on AT&T Sportsnet and listened to on SiriusXM 375.

In 2020, Baylor went 3-0 in the tournament, with wins against two top-eleven teams. Rodriguez is hoping to continue that level of performance this weekend against the stout opposition.

“We’ve had a lot of success down there,” Rodriguez said. “I’m really looking forward to it, and I think our guys are as well.”