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Baseball at UC Irvine: Swept Away

The Bears were swept out of Southern California in embarrassing fashion this weekend.

Rain on baseball field... This is what it looks like in my heart.
Rain on baseball field... This is what it looks like in my heart.

To call opening weekend an inauspicious start for Baylor Baseball is an understatement. I'm going to shy away from hyperbole and just say that this is not how the team wanted to begin its follow-up to the Year of the Bear. The offense sputtered to only seven runs over three games, and the pitching and defense could not stop the bleeding. By "could not stop the bleeding", what I mean is that the pitching and defense gave up 22 two-out runs during the series... How's that for a statistic that'll make you want to kill yourself? UCI's two-out RBIs dwarfed Baylor's total RBIs.

If you're a masochist, feel free to check out Baylor's official recaps: Friday's game, Saturday's game, Sunday's game.

I made it out to the Sunday game, and I can say with some confidence that UCI is a good team. I can also say that Baylor was not playing Baylor Baseball. They were playing some other brand of ball that doesn't lead to winning. The most damning stat from the weekend was Baylor's walk total: 3. Three walks in three games. That is not a Steve Smith team, people. Part of that, at least during the Sunday game, was the umpire. His strike zone was... Generous? Amorphous? Non-existent? Biased? There are plenty of non-complimentary ways to describe it. After it became apparent that the ump wasn't going to be issuing walks, several Baylor players found other ways to battle at the plate. Nathan Orf was particularly brilliant, going 4-5. He never let the UCI pitchers off the hook, getting involved in at least one ten pitch at-bat.

Here's something else I want to look at from the weekend. The lineup from each day:

Friday Saturday Sunday
1. Orf Orf Orf
2. Toth Toth Doe
3. Langford Doe Langford
4. Towey Towey Price
5. Porter Price Towey
6. Miller Porter Wendel
7. Brown Miller Toth
8. DalPorto Brown Goodwin
9. Goodwin Landes Tunnel

Here's what I notice: Beyond Orf and Towey, it was pretty different for each game, especially slots 5-9. After losing his four lineup stalwarts, Coach Smith is trying to figure his new offense out. From the looks of it, it'll take more time to settle into something that works. Hopefully, someone (I'm looking at you, Price/Porter/Wendel/Miller) will grab hold of that 4th/5th spot and give Towey some protection. After all, Ludy doesn't have his magical year in 2012 without Muncy, Evatt, and Vick batting around him.

From a pitching standpoint, Dillon Newman faired slightly better Sunday than Smith or Garner on Friday or Saturday respectively. It's still extremely early, so all three deserve another shot or three to figure it out. However, I'm really surprised that Kolt Browder and Austin Stone aren't in the rotation. Browder struck out the side in relief on Sunday, and Stone threw a scoreless inning on Saturday, but based on last year's returns, they both seemed ticketed for starting. If Newman, Smith, and Garner don't make strides, we may see that happen anyway.

A silver lining to the crap-storm game on Sunday was that I got to see a few freshmen get playing time. I was very impressed with both 1b Mitch Price (that kid is enormous! He's going to start cranking homeruns in very short order) and lhp Sterling Wynn. I just like the way the ball comes out of Wynn's hand. He will be a great starter for us in the coming years. I would put money on it.

This coming Tuesday, the Bears play their home opener at Baylor Ballpark. Everyone needs to get out with there with Kate and watch the team win its first game of the year. Be careful, though! There's a beaver hanging out somewhere in the Brazos, and he is very, very hungry. He needs to be fed. I bet he'd eat just about anything at the moment...