Baylor baseball begins Big 12 Tournament play on Wednesday morning at the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City. The tournament will be played again at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in downtown OKC, the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers' AAA affiliate. The fifth seeded Bears open with a 9:00 AM first pitch (yes, you read that correctly) against fourth seed West Virginia.
The Big 12 Tournament is a double elimination format, with eight teams split up into two different pools. Along with West Virginia, Baylor's pool will also include conference champion Texas Tech and eighth seed Oklahoma State. The winner of each pool will play in the championship game on Sunday afternoon with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament up for grabs.
Pool play in a double elimination tournament puts a premium on winning your opening game. Nick Lewis is expected to take the mound for the Bears on Wednesday and he could be real difference maker in determining whether or not Baylor can make a run to Sunday's title game. The Bears' offense has really clicked over the last few weeks, scoring an absurd 13.7 runs/game in 9 games in May. Yet at the same time, the pitching has taken a bit of a dip in production as the weather has warmed up and arms have worn done from the rigors of a long season. If Steve Rodriguez can get solid outings from Lewis as well as Montana Parsons in Baylor's second game on Thursday, the Bears could be capable of making a run in this tournament despite the presence of Texas Tech on their side of the bracket. Being able to minimize the bullpen’s workload early in the tournament could be a huge difference maker.
Despite the series loss at home to Kansas State last weekend, the Bears are in good shape to snag an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Baylor sits at 34-19 right now and have a top 20 RPI. BU played a difficult non-conference schedule and was able to put together a .500 season in the Big 12, which is the #1 RPI conference in the country. The Big 12 Tournament could only work to strengthen Baylor's resume and if the Bears are able to win the whole thing, they could still conceivably host a regional.
And not to mention, it's about time that Baylor wins one of these Big 12 Tournaments. Baylor is actually tied with Nebraska for the most appearances in the championship game with 6 since the tournament started back in 1997. The only problem? The Bears are 0-6 in those championship games. If they could somehow pull it off, it'd be a phenomenal way to cap off a resurgent year for a proud program.