Lots of Bears will be scattered throughout Stillwater, Okla., over the weekend, as Baylor baseball, No. 20 softball and No. 9 equestrian are all headed that direction.
Baseball and softball have a pair of ranked matchups on deck, while the equestrian team gets ready for the Big 12 Championship meet.
By Foster Nicholas | Sports Writer
After a long 14-game homestand that saw the Bears go 7-7, Baylor baseball now hits the road to take on No. 15 Oklahoma State University in Stillwater for a three-game weekend series.
“We’re going to go into a two tradition rich program [that’s] really well coached,” head coach Mitch Thompson said. “These guys know how to win. They’re expecting to win, and we’re going on the road. We’re going to have to go in there and really fight and claw and scrap and get it done, and we’re going to learn a lot.”
Thompson has preached the same motto all year: “you win, or you learn,” and Baylor (9-12, 2-1 Big 12) has seen both sides of that coin. The Bears are riding a three-game winning streak and Big 12 series win over Kansas State University in hopes of upsetting the Cowboys (17-5, 1-2 Big 12).
“We’re improving all over the field,” Thompson said. “Especially [over] our last five to 10 games; our offense has picked up.”
Through the ups and the downs, junior infielder Cole Posey said the team is starting to figure things out.
“On the field, you can see a totally different product,” Posey said. “We’re playing hard. A couple of these gritty wins we’ve had down the stretch … I don’t know if we had those a couple of weeks ago. We’re really starting to come together and play competitive baseball.”
Thompson said athletes like freshman outfielder Caleb Bergman and freshman catcher Zach Mazoch have made the most of their playing time that they’ve seen and that they will get more looks as time moves on.
“There’s more guys solidifying their roles and solidifying themselves as a starter for us,” Thompson said. “There’s still some questions and we’re going to continue to experiment and continue to give guys opportunities. They’re going to get an opportunity and then when they can perform, they’ll keep getting those opportunities.”
Looking toward the next series, fifth-year senior right-handed pitcher Blake Helton (0-3) will get the start in game one at 6 p.m. Friday at O’Brate Stadium.
In a 6 p.m. Saturday contest, sophomore right-handed pitcher Mason Marriott (1-2) will open things up on the mound. The final game, a 1 p.m. contest on Sunday, will feature a pitcher that is to be determined.
“The pitchers have done a phenomenal job with some really good shutdown innings and we’re kind of just piggybacking off one another right now,” Posey said.
After being picked to finish last in the Big 12 preseason poll, Baylor is off to an early start on getting out of that cellar. But with tough competition on the way, Posey said the group is focusing on itself.
“The guys on this team aren’t really worried about what anyone else is saying,” Posey said. “We know what we have and we know that we’ve got a lot of growing to do, but we’ve already done a ton so far, and we’re trending in the right direction.”
By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Coming off its eight shutout game of the season, Baylor softball faces a tall task in No. 2 Oklahoma State. Friday’s opening game will mark the first time the two programs have faced each other while being in the top 25 since 2011.
It’s been a big week for head coach Glenn Moore, as he hit 1,000 career wins on Wednesday. Moore said he’s viewing this matchup as “an opportunity.”
“It’s a sign of how strong our conference is, and a lot of people thought Oklahoma State was going to drop off a little bit,” Moore said. “I didn’t, because they have Kelly Maxwell back in the circle. They just reloaded. They didn’t rebuild, they reloaded. I love playing games like this.”
The Bears (23-5) have experience playing the nation’s premier teams, as they knocked off No. 1 University of Oklahoma in Waco on Feb. 19. Except this time, Baylor will be on the road and not in the comfort of Getterman Stadium.
Junior right-handed pitcher Dariana Orme said she’d admit Baylor played its best game against the Sooners a little over a month ago, but she added that the squad hasn’t “reached our peak yet.”
“We’re still climbing, so what Oklahoma saw and where we’re heading is pretty high,” Orme said. “I don’t think we tipped our hand too much. We still have some tricks in the bag. We’re ready.”
Orme, Baylor’s ace, has helped the team rank second in the Big 12 in pitching ERA with a 1.84 team ERA. Only the top-ranked Sooners sit higher. Orme picked up three wins last week and posted a 0.91 ERA through 23.0 innings of work.
She struck out 27 batters and pitched three separate complete games with two shutout appearances. In the Bears’ 7-1 victory over the University of Houston, Orme avoided walking a single batter, which was the third time this season she achieved that feat.
Orme was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week for her performance during the previous week.
Junior catcher Sydney Collazos, who catches for Orme, said the squad tends to get more amped up for higher-ranked opponents like the No. 2 Cowgirls (26-2).
“Not to say that we stoop down a level to lower teams, but it’s almost instinctual for a team to play at a lower level when they’re not as fired up,” Collazos said. “But this is the best way we can start conference with the No. 2 team in the country. We’re all fired up and we want to show what we’re made of. They haven’t been able to see this team yet like Oklahoma has, but I know we’re ready to go in there and show the Big 12 what we’re made of.”
Orme said it makes it even better that the baseball and equestrian teams will be in Stillwater as well.
“The community we have here at Baylor, it’s special between baseball and softball. We support each other a lot,” Orme said. “Knowing that while we’re playing and hopefully get a dub, they’ll be doing the same thing. It will definitely help us push a little harder and continue to represent God first and also Baylor.”
Moore said that junior right-handed pitcher Aliyah Binford had knee surgery on Monday and that she will miss the remainder of the season. Binford notably pitched in relief of the upset-win over OU back in February, but she last threw against the University of Minnesota on Feb. 24.
In that game, Binford allowed one hit across 3.1 innings, walking three and striking out five. She finishes her season with 21 strikeouts in 21.0 innings pitched, and holds a 4.00 ERA.
“Being able to bring her in behind Dari was one of the best one-two punches in the country,” Moore said. “That’s a big blow to us.”
Moore added that it was a “freak accident” but that with a sport like softball, it’s “almost normal.”
Now, he’s relying on other girls to step up.
“Anytime you have an injury like that, it opens up the opportunity for someone else,” Moore said. “That’s what I put in front of the girls. Now RyLee [Crandall] and Kaci [West] are going to be called on a little quicker than normal.”
He also said sophomore right-handed pitcher Ava Knoll (shin reaction) is “probably going to play next week” after missing over a month of time. Knoll last pitched on Feb. 11 versus Southern Utah University.