HOUSTON – It wasn’t the ending that Baylor envisioned.
A season that began with such promise – 15 wins in the first 17 games – ended with a streak in the wrong direction. The Bears closed with six straight losses to five different opponents, including a 17-3 season-ending defeat to top-seeded Houston at the NCAA’s Houston Regional Saturday at Schroeder Park.
Yet despite the stumbles near the finish line, Baylor coach Steve Rodriguez preferred to take an aerial photograph of the season as a whole.
The big picture? Baylor made considerable progress this season, returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years. Rodriguez said that’s something worth celebrating.
“I thought we competed well, I thought we did some good things,” Rodriguez said. “But unfortunately the bad things overlapped the good things. Bigger picture – long-term season wise, I told them I’ve never been more proud of a team than the way they competed this year, the things they did early on this season, how they competed when we weren’t kind of clicking on all cylinders in the middle, then down the end they played with a new reckless abandon that was really fun to watch.”
For five of Baylor’s active players, the Houston Regional offered an opportunity to go home again. Those players who grew up in the Houston area – Montana Parsons, Matt Menard, Aaron Dodson, Tucker Cascadden and Cameron Miller – experienced mixed results.
Parsons started Baylor’s opening game against Texas A&M and pitched well until encountering trouble in the sixth inning. He ended up taking the loss, as the Aggies came out with an 8-5 triumph.
Dodson connected for a grand slam home run against the Aggies, and finished the weekend 4-for-7 with four RBIs. Menard bopped a two-run blast in the sixth inning against Houston, and tallied two hits in his final Baylor game. Cascadden went 1-for-4 in the two losses, while Miller grounded out in a pinch-hitting appearance against the Cougars Saturday.
Bad, but not the worst
It was bad for Baylor on Saturday, but it wasn’t the worst.
The widest margin in a Baylor postseason defeat came in 2003 at the Baton Rouge Super Regional. After two close games against LSU, the Bears lost the third game, 20-5, sending the Tigers to the College World Series.
Baylor’s 14-run gap against Houston marked the second-biggest NCAA tournament loss. The Bears suffered a 13-run defeat in their first postseason trip in 1948, falling to USC, 16-3.
Houston, meanwhile, set or tied a half-dozen school records for a postseason game, including runs scored and margin of victory.