Baylor baseball readies for toughest test yet, aims to continue home success

Junior infielder and outfielder Cole Posey (6) rips the ball off his bat during Baylor baseball's second game of a conference series against Kansas State University on March 18 at Baylor Ballpark. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Foster Nicholas | Sports Writer

There’s a brand new aurora floating around Baylor Ballpark, and it’s a feeling that wasn’t present when the spring first rolled around.

Baylor baseball junior infielder and outfielder Cole Posey said the team is “starting to see a belief in ourselves that wasn’t there to start the year.”

“Part of that’s [being] a young team, part of that’s [being] a new team,” Posey said. “But we’re really coming together, getting to know one another, trusting the coaches, and trusting each other. We’re really starting to believe that we can go out there, compete and be successful.”

Hot off its second Big 12 series win, Baylor (12-21, 4-8 Big 12) sits in eighth place in the conference standings and looks to find a spot in the Big 12 Tournament. After beating the University of Oklahoma in two of three games over the weekend, the Bears took a trip to Horner Ballpark in Dallas and lost a close game, 6-5, against No. 21 Dallas Baptist University Tuesday.

Despite the loss, Posey said the group’s confidence is sky high.

“[Head] coach [Mitch] Thompson after the game said, ‘There’s no such thing as moral victories,’ and it’s true, but we played a phenomenal game,” Posey said. “We’ve seen ourselves really grow and compete in a way that we haven’t all year. I think we’re going to take that momentum into [our series against] Texas and really give them a good fight.”

Baylor now faces its toughest test yet, a weekend series at the Baylor Ballpark against No. 12 University of Texas. The Longhorns (24-11, 6-3 Big 12) sit at the top of the Big 12 standings, and also lead the conference in ERA (3.45). The low ERA mark also sits tenth in the nation, while the Bears’ 6.78 ERA ranks at the bottom of the Big 12.

Fifth-year senior right-handed pitcher Blake Helton will get the start in game one at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Helton (0-3) gave Baylor five solid innings in his last start, but the win was given to the strong bullpen that followed.

“It definitely helps build your confidence,” sophomore right-handed pitcher Gabe Craig said. “The more you can go out there in those kinds of situations and get the job done over and over again, it helps you. It gives you that confidence to know that every time you go out there, you can continue to do it and continue to execute what you need to do.”

In the slated 2 p.m. contest Saturday, sophomore right-handed pitcher Mason Marriott will get the starting nod, while junior right-handed pitcher Will Rigney will start in the series finale at 1 p.m. Sunday.

At this point in the season, Thompson said the group is “learning more and more” about themselves “every game.”

“We’re learning about who’s going to go out there and give us something fairly consistent in our lineup and in our pitching rotation,” Thompson said. “That’s the way it is every year, but it’s been a little more difficult this year for us.”

Additionally, a familiar face will be back in Waco this weekend. Former Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez, now the hitting coach at Texas, will make his return to Baylor Ballpark. With the emotions of a Big 12 foe and former coach coming back, Thompson and the Bears want as much support from the fans as they can get.

“We need a big crowd, we need an atmosphere,” Thompson said. “We’re going to try and play as hard as we can to give them something to be happy about. Our guys are looking forward to the opportunity. And that’s exactly what it is, it’s the next step. We’d love to have these seats filled with green and gold.”