Looks like the Baylor baseball team is back in the swing of things – and then some.
For the second straight day, Baylor’s hitters unleashed some wicked cuts in a blowout win over Prairie View A&M. This time, the Bears punched 22 hits in dispatching the Panthers, 18-1, to complete a sweep of the season series at Baylor Ballpark.
Baylor rapped 16 hits in a 15-2 win over those same Panthers the day before.
Coming off an eight-day break prior to these games for final exams, the Bears (29-17) were trigger-happy and eager to bang the ball around the ballpark. They fired off plenty of rounds against overmatched Prairie View (18-34), which had enough trouble getting the Bears out but also played a few popups into hits.
“Trying to get comfortable, trying to get our timing back,” Baylor coach Steve Rodriguez said. “When you have 10 days off, timing goes quick. So I just wanted to make sure that we had a chance to get a lot of guys in, a lot of at-bats, and get ready for Oklahoma State this weekend.”
Talk about padding the old batting averages. Seven different Baylor hitters contributed multi-hit outings, and the Bears hammered nine extra-base hits – six doubles, one triple and a pair of home runs, from Davis Wendzel and pinch-hitter Tucker Johnson, whose bomb was the first of his Baylor career.
Wendzel may be the poster boy for persevering at the plate. The freshman struggled early in the year, with a batting average that was at .208 after his first 17 games, but on Wednesday he surpassed the .300 mark on the year, thanks to a 4-for-5, four-RBI effort against the Panthers.
“Perseverance, and just being coachable,” Rodriguez said. “He was taking a lot of pitches early on, and sometimes because you’re not seeing the ball real well you don’t want to swing at everything. But sometimes some of those first pitches in the at-bat were the ones he was letting go, so he has done a really good job of making some adjustments. Early on in the count, if he gets a really good pitch he’s laying a good swing on it. … I’m really happy for him, and for our team right now.”
Wendzel said it doesn’t hurt having a coach who knows a thing or two about hitting like Rodriguez, who had a stint in the big leagues.
“It feels great. I was struggling at the beginning,” Wendzel said. “I was pressing through it, working with Coach Rod a lot, and he knows the swing. He knows everything about it. His approach really works well with my approach, and how I’ve been raised to hit. It’s starting to click a little bit now.”
Prairie View briefly held a lead, as the Panthers scored a single run in the first off BU starter Hayden Kettler. Cody Den Beste and Carson Lee both smacked singles, the latter of which scored Dan Beste from second base.
But that advantage eventually evaporated in a barrage of Bear base knocks. Baylor seized the lead in the third. With the bases loaded and two outs, Wendzel put the Bears on the board with a flare to center, scoring a pair. The Bears added another in the inning when Josh Bissonette drillled a single to left, sending Aaron Dodson sliding in safely headfirst at home plate.
Baylor’s batters shredded Prairie View’s offerings for some clear-cut extra-base hits, including a no-doubt two-home run from Wendzel in the seventh that sailed high over the wall in left-center. But the Bears also turned some unorthodox swings into batting average-helpers. Case in point – Bissonette was setting up to bunt in the fifth when the pitch came in helmet high. Instead of watching it go by, Bissonette raised up and chopped it on the infield grass in front of the pitcher, then beat the throw to first for a single.
The Bears also benefited from a “Little League home run” in a six-run seventh. With a runner aboard, Kameron Esthay skied a high pop in the infield. But Prairie View shortstop Kevin Macias couldn’t get a bead on the ball and it fell in for a hit. As Esthay was making his way to second base, Macias exacerbated things by hurling a wild throw past first base, and Esthay kept running all the way around the bases to score.
Kettler (4-1) picked up the win, and six different pitchers saw action on the mound for the Bears, limiting Prairie View to just seven hits.
Baylor will resume Big 12 action with its final road series at Oklahoma State beginning Friday.
Bear Facts: The latest D1Baseball.com’s NCAA bracket projections had Baylor making the NCAA tournament, as the No. 2 seed in the Long Beach (Calif.) Regional. The Bears are hunting for the program’s first NCAA berth since 2012.