Bears Swept By Maryland, Handle Houston Baptist
Opening Weekend was not a magical one we hoped for. Maryland looked more experienced, more prepared, and more focused on their approach. The Terps rotation threw strikes, Maryland hitters put the bat on the ball just well enough (until the end of the Sunday game), and with that, earned a sweep over Baylor this past weekend.
Baylor starting pitchers Tyler Thomas (Friday) and Jake Jackson (Sunday) both looked the part. Tyler is a sure-fire Friday night starter and will get better run production throughout the season. He was in control of his outing from the third hitter on, and the first inning was more about Maryland just getting two balls hit to the right spots to start the season. Jackson was also solid on Sunday, turning in 5 innings giving up 3 earned runs.
Anderson Needham looked great in his first outing coming off arm surgery. Hambleton Oliver had one good and one rough outing, with the rest of the bullpen generally struggling throughout the weekend.
The offense just turned in a bad weekend. Give Maryland’s pitching credit, when you throw a lot of strikes, you force the offense into situations where they are forced to defend themselves. Friday and early Saturday, Baylor was swinging a lot... and missing a lot. Saturday and Sunday the Bears ended up getting some runs across, but in both games were down too much too early to be able to come all the way back.
The defense was not good, maybe the most disappointing part of the weekend, this team has the experience level to be elite on the defensive side. (Though, Kyle Nevin’s home run robbery was remarkable!)
This first weekend stung, especially while watching some other Big 12 teams have success against similar competition. But it doesn’t mean this will be the version of the Bears we see all year. The older players on this team have seen a lot of ups and downs since being in Waco, and hopefully this is a wake-up call to refocus some of the guys in the locker room.
The Bears bounced back and beat Houston Baptist on Tuesday. This was a clean game which saw the Bears swing the bats and pitch a little bit better. We got to see some new faces in the field and on the mound, unfortunately it was hard to judge them because the talent level at HBU is just not the same. Tre Richardson popped a homerun to left field beating the wind, hopefully this gives him some confidence going into the weekend.
Bears Welcome #23 Duke
Big chance to continue the momentum this weekend in Waco! #23 Duke comes to town after winning 2 of 3 in their first series (Virginia Military Institute) and winning their first midweek game of the season against Appalachian State. This is a team who has been to three straight regionals and is expecting big things of themselves in the ACC this year.
Duke’s pitching is led by Marcus Johnson and Luke Fox, who are expected to be one of the best combinations in their conference. They have not started much on weekends before this year, but these two are expected to have good seasons for the Blue Devils. A deep and experienced bullpen will help the starters settle into their new roles this year. The Bears will need a much better offensive approach this weekend, especially against the starting pitchers.
Duke has a lot of new faces in their starting lineup, and they have performed well, albeit against lesser opponents to start the year. They came into the season expecting a lot from freshman SS Alex Mooney and 3B Graham Pauley to fill in the gaps on a lineup that is losing 6 regular starters from last year’s regional team. Tyler Thomas and the rest of the Baylor pitching staff will provide a much steeper challenge than Duke’s inexperienced lineup has seen so far this season.
All in all, this weekend is about how the Bears respond to a very disappointing opening weekend. Duke is another very solid team who will come in and win games if the Bears do not change their offensive focus and put a stop to all the errors in the field. Tyler Thomas will need to set the tone with a second good outing. Win or lose, we are going to see what kind of group we have this year this weekend, I hope and expect to see a more energized team, especially on offense this weekend.