Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in. Well played, Baylor Baseball.
Apparently, I should be negative and write Baylor athletic teams off more often, since most of them seem to be dead set on making me look silly. Baseball responded to my last post with a four-game winning streak including a weekend sweep of UT, thrusting themselves into second in the Big 12 only a single game behind league leading OU. At 11-6 Big 12 but only 24-20 overall, there's still plenty of work to be done, but suddenly, there's a very real change that BU can take its second Big 12 championship in a row.
Baylor only has eight games left in their regular season, including road series against relatively weak Kansas (9-9; 25-18) and Texas Tech (6-12; 20-24) teams. Baylor hasn't been good on the road this year, but those are winnable series. In contrast, Oklahoma has eleven games left with conference series against a surprisingly decent WVU team (9-6; 27-18), a talented OSU team (7-7; 32-11) that has been a disappointment in conference, and a very dangerous KSU team (9-6; 31-14). OU is on the road for both the WVU and KSU series. I have to call that advantage Baylor.
If the team can take its mid-week games against UTA and UTSA (no guarantee considering that they've lost to UTSA already this season) and if they can win both Big 12 series on the road, then there's a post-season berth in their future. If not, things get dicey. As Samuel L. Jackson would say, hold on to your butts.
So how did we get to this point? Well, this magical week started with a 9-5 victory over Dallas Baptist. Sterling Wynn got the start and struck out five in three innings. He also walked three and gave up a couple of runs, showcasing the ability and rawness that makes him so intriguing to me. Only a freshman, Wynn has plenty of time to develop the control he'll need to be an effective starter. Wynn was followed by Sean Spicer, who gave up another three runs in 2.2 innings of work. The Bears stayed in a hole until tying it up in the eighth. In the ninth, Baylor plated four runs on four hits and an error, putting the game firmly out of reach. Orf, Towey, Miller, and Wendel contributed two hits each.
Friday's game against Texas was never in much doubt. Max Garner threw one of his best games of the year, going 7.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks. Crayton Bare finished the game off with 1.2 scorless innings. Lawton Langford and Jake Miller were the offensive stars, totalling 5 hits and 4 RBI between them. Miller has been en fuego for the last several weeks, pushing his average up to .288 after hovering around .200 for the first six weeks of the season.
If you like pitching duels, Saturday's game was for you. Baylor won 1-0 on a day when offense was virtually impossible to come by. The difference? A two-out RBI walk by Lawton Langford. That is sooooo Langford. I mean, if anybody is going to win a baseball game with a walk, it's him. He's an on-base machine.
On the bump, Austin Stone pitched his most impressive game of the season - 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 10 Ks. Only a sophomore, Stone should be the anchor of next year's staff. Josh Michaelec and Crayton Bare followed Stone with three innings of shutout ball. I feel that I need to give a lot of credit to Baylor's bullpen. They got bombed a couple times early in the season, but Bare, Michaelec, Kolt Browder, and Doug Ashby have all been excellent for most of the season. More on Crayton Bare in a moment.
Sunday's game saw a really nice start from Ryan Smith as he went 6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks. He left two men on base in the seventh, but Ashby came on and stranded them both. Once again, Crayton Bare finished the came off in the ninth with three Ks. If you're keeping track, Crayton Bare pitched out of the pen in all four games this week. He's now thrown 43.2 innings out of the pen, more than our back end starters Smith and Stone. While Bare may walk a few too many batters, he's been nothing short of exceptional, striking out 46 on his way to a 2.06 ERA. Steve Smith has been leaning on him heavily, and my only fear is that they run out of whatever type of duct tape is keeping Bare's left arm attached to his body... Actually, Michaelec is sitting at 37.2 innings currently, so their heavy use is mainly a function of the starters not going as deep in some games this year.
At the plate, Langford, Towey, and Miller once again carried the big sticks, accounting for 6 of the Bears' 10 hits. The coming week will be yet another interesting one for this year's roller coaster of a team. Job number one is taking care of UTA mid-week so that they can roll into Kansas with 25 wins. I still believe 30+ is the magic number to sneak into a regional, so every win is precious now. Over the weekend, the Beaver got a taste of what it enjoyed so much last year. Don't let it go hungry now.