Steve Rodriguez has been frustrated with the Waco weather the past couple of weeks, to say the least. Sure, rain is good for the crops, but it’s not always beneficial for a baseball team that needs to get more playing time.
While Baylor (3-3) has seen both its midweek games canceled, the weekends have been a different story. And Rodriguez’s Bears will get a rare chance to play three different foes in three days over the course of this weekend, when they take part in the Frisco College Classic.
“It’s probably more stressful for all of us coaches, just because we need to get scouting reports on all three teams. It’s like a (NCAA) regional type atmosphere, it really is,” Rodriguez said. “But truthfully, for our guys it’s going to be really good, because they’re going to have to make some adjustments a little bit quicker.”
Last year, Baylor seized its tournament opportunity and made the most of it. At the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park, the Bears bookended a pair of wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M around a loss to eventual College World Series qualifier LSU.
A similar hearty challenge awaits at Dr Pepper Ballpark, home of the Frisco RoughRiders, the Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Baylor will test itself against the likes of California, Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech, salty foes who enter the event with a combined record of 18-5.
“It’s going to be a great tournament,” sophomore pitcher Hayden Kettler said. “There are three really good teams we’re going to go up against. I think it’s another opportunity to prove ourselves. We’ve got some guys who are banged up right now. We’ve got to have people step up, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Kettler (1-1, 0.75 ERA) has pitched well in a pair of Sunday starts, but will slide into the Saturday role this weekend, facing the ninth-ranked Aggies (8-0). That’s because Rodriguez and his coaches have not yet decided what they plan to do with junior right-hander Kyle Hill (0-0, 4.00). Hill excelled as a setup man to Troy Montemayor last year, and Rodriguez is flirting with the idea of using him again in that capacity. As such, he has not named a starting pitcher for Sunday’s game against Louisiana Tech.
“The big thing is we’re trying to make sure we maximize the ability of some of our guys,” Rodriguez said. “And Kyle is one of those guys who at the end of the game, especially, was very valuable to us. If we can capitalize on that early on in the weekend, then we will. But if not, then he’ll be able to get a start on Sunday for us.”
The Bears are especially itching to renew their old rivalry with A&M. Last year, Baylor vanquished the Aggies, 6-3, on Tucker Cascadden’s walk-off grand slam at the Houston College Classic, but A&M exacted a measure of revenge by picking up an 8-5 win over BU at the NCAA’s Houston Regional.
“I think every game is pretty special,” Kettler said. “Any chance I get to go out and start, I want to use as an opportunity. Got some guys on the (A&M) team that I know, so it’s going to be fun to play against them.”
Cody Bradford (1-0, 0.00) has emerged as the Elliott Ness of the Baylor staff thus far, as the sophomore left-hander has been untouchable. But Bradford will face the most potent hitting lineup he’s seen in Cal, as the Golden Bears are shredding the ball to the tune of a .361 team average and 10 home runs in seven games.
Baylor didn’t play terribly in dropping two of three to No. 12 UCLA last weekend, but Rodriguez said that he’s still seeing too much “sloppy” play from his club. This weekend will present its own unique challenges, as the Bears will have to adjust on the fly to seeing a different team each day.
“The three teams, we’ve done our scouting report on, but they are all different,” first baseman Andy Thomas said. “It’s going to be changing our approach from game to game, instead of like UCLA, where we had a scouting report for the whole weekend. But it’ll be fun. They’re three good teams, and we’re excited.”
Rodriguez said that the team will continue to take it slowly with centerfielder Richard Cunningham, who injured his hamstring in the team’s season-opening series with Houston Baptist. … Texas A&M is the only ranked team Baylor will face in Frisco, as the Aggies are ninth in the Baseball America poll and No. 10 in D1Baseball.com’s rankings. Under Rodriguez, the Bears are 11-15 against ranked foes.