This was not the way Baylor Baseball drew up the beginning of their season. After getting swept in Irvine, the Bears rebounded against Texas State before losing a hard fought series to the number-two UCLA Bruins. Their record now stands at an unsightly 2-5. However, if you're looking for silver linings (excelsior, am I right? Nobody?), they are plentiful. To start, the Bears have faced an extremely difficult schedule thus far, facing a top-thirty team on the road and the number-two team in the country at home. Their tough schedule continues for the next week, as they face a very good Pepperdine team Tuesday, followed by Cal and Rice in the Astros in Action College Classic. Needless to say, the Bears will be well prepared for conference play when it begins.
Another silver lining this weekend was the emergence of the Bears' pitching. Max Garner threw an excellent game on Friday (5 IP, 2 Runs (1 Earned), 5 Hits, 1 BB, 5 Ks), before the bullpen gave up two runs of their own. Dillon Newman followed with an even better start on Saturday (5 IP, 0 Runs, 4 Hits, 1 BB, 2 Ks), before Ryan Smith finished the game in style (3.1 IP, 0 Runs, 1 Hit, 3 Ks). On Sunday, Austin Stone got the start, causing me to pat myself on the back and say "CALLED IT!" Stone was great under a very limited pitch count (3 IP, 0 Runs, 2 Hits, 0 BB, 2 Ks).
Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game attended on Sunday and tweeted his observations from the contest. First was a scouting report on Stone: 86-87 mph fastball with sweeping curve in mid 70s and change-up at around 79. Rogers said that Stone mixes pitches very well. Another tweet that stuck out was the one where he called the Bears a "gritty" team. I'm pretty sure he was referring to the way they were grinding out at-bats against good UCLA pitching.
Unfortunately for the Bears, the offense was unable to grind out quite enough run support, and they lost games one and three by one run each. The lack of runs is certainly understandable in game one, when UCLA ace and future high-round draft pick Adam Plutko was dealing; however, if you want a snapshot of the difference between last year's offense and this year's, here you go:
Plutko's line against Baylor in 2012 - 3.1 IP, 5 Runs, 5 Hits, 4 BBs, 3 Ks.
Plutko's line against Baylor in 2013 - 6 IP, 1 Run, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks.
Last year, it really didn't matter how good the opposing pitcher was. The lineup was so productive that they scored against pretty much everyone. This year, scoring has been more of a struggle. Toth, Orf, and Langford have started the year well at the top of the order, but the middle of the lineup is sagging and will continue to do so until some combination of Price, Wendel, and Porter can flash power and protect Towey. I do believe one of those guys will step up, but it will be a tough row to hoe until that happens.
Everyone remember to get out and support the team this Tuesday as they play yet another quality California opponent (and almost my alma mater) Pepperdine. Fun fact, Pepperdine, a private university affiliated with the Church of Christ, has the most beautiful campus in the world. Or at least they will until our riverside stadium is complete. At that point, it's game on. Sic 'em, and for God's sake, feed that beaver! He's starving, people!