The Shriner’s College Classic in Houston is always one of the most talent filled tournaments in all of college baseball every year, this year was no different. Coming off a weeknight win at Rice, the Bears beat UCLA behind our ace, and LSU with a top to bottom team effort. This was the second weekend in a row the Bears have stepped up to their competition.
Tyler Thomas had his best outing of the season, barely beating out UCLA’s Jake Brooks in a pitchers duel. Brooks threw a complete game for UCLA, and Thomas turned in 8 and 2⁄3 for the Bears. There really isn’t much to say about this one. Thomas and Brooks were great, and the defenses played well behind them. Kyle Nevin gave us our only runs on a 2 run homerun in the 4th. Thomas gave up a solo-homerun in the 9th before freshman Mason Marriott came in for the one-out save. Tyler Thomas could have a special season if he continues to throw strikes at this level, he is ready to go head to head against any starting pitcher he’s up against this year. In the past he has only given up runs due to walks and control issues, so far this year he has 24 strikeouts to 3 walks in three starts and 20.2 innings. That’s what we like to call efficient, folks.
Game 2 was not a low scoring affair, nor was it as clean of a game for the Bears. Both teams found ways to apply offensive pressure, with Tennessee pushing 10 runs home in a win for the Volunteers. Jake Jackson had a bad afternoon, and didn’t get out of the third inning, but he is experienced and will bounce back. Baylor took advantage of Tennessee’s catcher and pitchers on the bases and stole 7 bags, SIX in the first inning alone. Tennessee’s starter was especially slow to the plate, and on top of that their catcher is below average to the plate. This allowed the experienced Bears to run all over Tennessee, in a game that shows us how our guys can apply pressure when the opportunity presents itself, just didn’t get enough pitching in this game to keep the offense in it.
Game 3 against LSU was the final game of the Shriner’s Classic and did not disappoint. Will Rigney continues to grow. Though he gave up two runs in the first, and three in the 4th, he is a young arm who is getting thrown into the fire and competing at a high level. If he can solidify himself as the third starter, and give us 4-5 good innings on Sundays, the Bears will have a solid weekend trio of starters. Matt Voelker, Cam Caley, and Hambleton Oliver all turned in scoreless outings against the potent LSU offense, and despite a solo homerun, and the trying run coming to the plate in the 9th, freshman Mason Marriott got his second save of the weekend, and is looking to be the option at the end of the game that the coaching staff was hoping he would be. The offense shined with 9 runs on 11 hits, with the big moment being Jack Pineda’s two run home run in the 6th inning which put the Bears in control.
All in all, this was a GREAT weekend for the Bears. Now 4-2 in the last two weekends against ranked opponents. The offense, including our star Jared McKenzie, is still a little bit up and down, but the Tennessee and LSU games showed us what we are capable of on that side of the ball. Nevin has gotten into a groove hitting behind McKenzie, and once Jared starts swinging the bat a little better, this offense will again be very dangerous. Our pitching staff is about what we thought, but the bullpen is seeing some growth. If Marriott can continue to learn and solidify himself in the closer role, the rest of the bullpen will come into shape naturally.
The Bears move into this week with a rare trip to Abilene, TX to take on Abilene Christian, followed up by a weekend series in Waco against Columbia. In the last week before conference, the Bears need to rack up 4 or 5 wins before starting conference with that purple school from Ft. Worth comes to Waco March 18.