Asked by reporters for a Los Angeles weather report, Baylor baseball’s Steve Rodriguez glanced at his phone and mentioned that it would be clear and cold, with temperatures dipping into the 40s at game time.
“Should be nice,” Rodriguez said.
Given the rain that has saturated the Waco area over the past week, the Bears will take anything dry. They’ve been off since Sunday, since rain forced the cancellation of Tuesday’s home contest with Dallas Baptist.
Baylor (2-1) and Houston Baptist combined for just 17 runs in three games in last weekend’s season-opening series. It’s one of the rites of spring that pitchers always start out a little ahead of the hitters. So, at what point do the hitters generally start catching up?
“Hopefully really soon,” Rodriguez said. “UCLA has a phenomenal pitching staff. I think they walked like three guys in four games and they’ve made one error or something like that. So, they’re going to be really good.
“It’s just like when we go into spring training. Pitchers are always ahead of the hitters just until they get their timing and stuff like that. That’s the biggest thing about hitters is you have to make sure you can make those adjustments as the game goes on, different kinds of pitchers, and then be able to do that on a pretty consistent basis. It’s tough, but it definitely can be done.”
The 12th-ranked Bruins (4-0) won’t make it easy. Two of UCLA’s projected weekend starters — right-handers Jake Bird and Jon Olsen — still own a 0.00 ERA on the season. The third? Freshman Jake Pettway is humming along with a 1.80 mark.
But, in a weird show of symmetry, Baylor can boast the exact same stat. BU’s Friday and Sunday starters Cody Bradford and Hayden Kettler have yet to succumb an earned run, while Saturday hurler Kyle Hill owns a 1.80 mark.
That could make for several low-scoring games where runs come at a premium. Rodriguez said that UCLA tends to excel at those types of games, because that style of play is the norm on the West Coast.
“West Coast style is pretty different,” said Rodriguez, who coached for 12 years at Pepperdine prior to taking over at Baylor in 2016. “I don’t want to say it’s orchestrated, but it’s usually very good pitching, very good defense, small ball. There’s not a lot of, ‘Hey, we’re going to outswing you.’ … They’re going to play very fundamentally sound baseball, so that’s what we’re going to have to do as well.”
Rodriguez plans to take the Baylor players to one of his favorite L.A. restaurants and show them a few of the sights while they’re on the West Coast. The coach almost prefers road trips to home games, just because of the bonding that inherently unfolds.
“The biggest thing is you get to rely on each other. Here, you go to class, you have study hall, you have things to do, you have girlfriends, you have parents, everybody’s here,” Rodriguez said. “And I don’t want to say just overall static or distractions. But on the road, you get to really rely on each other.
“You get to room with your teammates, you get to eat with your teammates. You get to go and walk around and just be with them and talk to them. And that for me is always a great thing, just building camaraderie, building the atmosphere that you’re looking for in a team.”
Despite a couple of planned field trips, the primary objective of Baylor’s weekend trip is more basic. It’s not a party cruise. The only souvenirs they’re hoping to stuff into the overhead compartment are a couple of wins, if not three.
“It’s like I explained to them, it’s a business trip,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to go have good food, take them around and see some things, just to get them out of the hotel a little bit. But when it comes down to it, we’ve got to go out and play three games and play the best baseball that we can.”
Rodriguez said that senior centerfielder Richard Cunningham is day-to-day with a hamstring injury. “We’re going to be careful with it for sure, just because it’s a long season,” the coach said. … Baylor’s Bradford is the reigning Big 12 pitcher of the week and was one of nine players to garner Collegiate Baseball national player of the week recognition after taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning last Friday against HBU. … Under Rodriguez, Baylor is 10-13 against teams ranked in Baseball America’s Top 25.