Baylor's 16th-ranked baseball team got the 2011 season off to a slow start, but the Bears found a way to come back and win the series against Oral Roberts in the 2011 QTI Powers Opening Weekend Classic.
After losing the series opener 7-3, Baylor got a game-winning homer from Brooks Pinckard on its way to evening the series with a 9-4 win on Saturday, and the Bears clinched the series with a come-from-behind win on Sunday.
It's amazing how one play here or there can change an entire series. If the Bears don't find a way to rally back and win the finale, Oral Roberts goes home feeling great, while Baylor would've felt like it got off to a slow start. Add in Tuesday afternoon's 2-0 loss to TCU, and the Bears would've been 1-3 had it not been for some clutch hitting on Sunday. Then again, if Baylor catches a few breaks in the TCU game (like if Logan Vick's sharp liner would've made it over the first baseman's glove for a RBI double instead of a double play), the Bears could be 3-1 right now. That's why baseball teams play 60 games every year.
While Friday's loss wasn't the best way to start the season, consider that Oral Roberts has been to 13 consecutive NCAA Regionals. ORU is one of the best mid-major teams in the country every year and there's no reason to believe this season will be any different. At the end of the season, those two wins will really help the Bears RPI. The series win was enough to keep Baylor at No. 16 in the Baseball America Top 25 Poll released Monday.
Baylor could've scheduled a team that isn't as strong every year and likely taken a series sweep, but the Bears decided to go with a challenging non-conference schedule that should help them in the long run. Other programs don't schedule as tough and they put up strong numbers in the season's opening weekend, so the Big 12 statistical rankings don't mean much at this point. It's just not fair to compare numbers when the level of competition is so different across the league. Take a look at the teams that put up the best numbers in the league and there's a good chance you won't be able to name the physical location of the team they played.
All that said, a series win is always a good thing, and coming from behind to win close games can only help when the Bears find themselves in similar situations in the future.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Jake Miller, Sophomore, 3B, Houston, Texas (Startford HS)
PITCHER OF THE WEEK
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Edit: Perfect Game sent word that Max Muncy was accidentally left off the list of Top Prospects for the 2012 MLB Draft. He should have been No. 3 on the list.
Rogers released his Big 12 Preview on Saturday, and in addition to everything you would've seen in a Yahoo! conference preview, it also has information on the league's best professional prospects courtesy of Allan Simpson.
First, Rogers projects the Bears to finish fourth in the Big 12, which seems to be right on par with most projections (Baseball America picked the Bears third). He lists the Bears along with projected third-place finisher Texas A&M as "Super regional caliber" teams, just behind Texas and Oklahoma as "Omaha caliber."
Logan Vick is the Bears' only representative on Rogers' preseason All-Big 12 team, but the team doesn't feature a utility spot -- the position where Brooks Pinckard has been placed on most preseason all-conference teams.
On Simpson's list of the Top Prospects for the 2011 MLB Draft, Baylor's Logan Verrett is ranked fourth behind only Taylor Jungmann (Texas), John Stilson (Texas A&M) and Burch Smith (Oklahoma). Pinckard checks in at ninth on the list, placing the Bears in the company of Texas and Texas A&M as the only teams with multiple prospects in the top 10.
Max Muncy is ranked No. 3 among prospects for the 2012 MLB Draft. He's joined on the list by fellow sophomore and 2010 Freshman All-American Logan Vick (No. 9) and freshman Dillon Newman (No. 18), who will be draft-eligible after just two seasons in Waco because he'll be 21 years old before the first day of the draft. Newman was drafted by the New York Mets in the 49th round of the 2010 draft, but he chose to delay a professional career to play at Baylor.
With softball now underway, there's only one Baylor sport that has yet to begin its 2010-11 academic year season. Fortunately, we're only six days away from baseball's season opener, which is slated for 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18 at Baylor Ballpark, when the Bears host Oral Roberts in the QTI Powers Opening Weekend Classic. For season or single-game ticket information, call the Baylor Athletics Ticket Office at 254-710-1000. That's all for now, but don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
Baseball America put out its annual Midwest Region Preview (subscription required) on Thursday, featuring projections for the Big 12, Big Ten, Horizon League, MAC, MVC and Summit League.
BA projects the Bears to finish third in the league, which is no surprise considering it ranked Baylor 16th in its preseason top 25, behind No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Texas, but ahead of No. 21 Texas A&M.
What might be surprising is Nebraska being picked to finish fifth. The Cornhuskers have missed out of the Big 12 tournament each of the last two season (meaning they finished 9th or 10th in the 10-team league). It will be interesting to see if Nebraska can right the ship in its final year of Big 12 play. It might also be a little surprising that the other team to miss each of the last two conference tournaments, Oklahoma State, is picked to finish sixth.
Kansas State, which finished tied for third in the Big 12 regular season last year, is picked seventh, while Texas Tech is eighth and Kansas is ninth, followed by Missouri. BA projects the Big 12 to have five teams qualify for the NCAA tournament, with Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M and Nebraska all making the cut.
Pinckard went 18-for-20 stealing bases in 2010.
Logan Vick (OF) and Brooks Pinckard (UTL) were both named to Baseball America's preseason All-Big 12 team. Pinckard was a first-team selection by the league's coaches a year ago, while Vick made the second team and was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year by the Waco Tribune-Herald.
Vick homered twice in the Bears' first game at the Big 12 Championship.
On the list of the league's "Top Newcomers," RHP Trae Davis is listed eighth, while Logan Verrett is picked third among the leauge's "Top Prospects, 2011 Draft," and Max Muncy is eighth on the list of the league's "Top Prospects, 2012 Draft."
Muncy's 11 home runs were the most ever by a Baylor freshman.
BA also listed the league's "Best Tools," and a few Bears made that list. Pinckard was chosen "Best Athlete," "Best Defensive Outfielder" and "Best Outfield Arm," while Verrett was picked for "Best Breaking Ball."
Verrett finished eighth in the Big 12 with a 3.28 ERA.
The Midwest Region Preview also featured the Summit League, which includes Oral Roberts, the team Baylor opens the 2011 season against. ORU shared the conference title last season and won the conference tournament, securing its 13th consecutive NCAA Regional bid. BA projects the Golden Eagles to finish season in the league this year and also projects that they will miss out of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996.
ORU has two players on the preseason all-conference team, OF Nick Baligod and SP Bryce Smolen. Baylor fans might remember Smolen for earning the save with 2.0 shutout innings in the series opener of last year's four-game series. That game was the last time Baylor lost a non-conference game at Baylor Ballpark, and Smolen didn't fare as well his second time against the Bears, giving up two runs in 2.1 innings of the series finale.
ORU also has the league's top two newcomers in RHP Alex Gonzalez and OF Brandon King. Both were drafted by the Baltimore Orioles last year, with Gonzalez going in the 11th round and King in the 15th.
We're just eight days away from the QTI Powers Opening Weekend Classic. The 2011 season begins with the series opener, which is slated for 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18 at Baylor Ballpark. If you haven't already bought season tickets, there's still time. Call the Baylor Athletics Ticket Office at 254-710-1000. That's all for now, but don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
College Baseball Insider released its annual Big 12 Baseball Coaches Survey today. CBI asks coaches from each fo the league's 10 teams to name the Big 12's "biggest power threat," "most underrated pitcher/hitter," best defensive outfielder," etc.
Texas led the way with six different players/coaches listed on the survey, but Baylor came in second with four members of the 2011 squad listed. Texas A&M had three, Oklahoma and Texas Tech had two apiece, and Kansas State and Kansas both had one. Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma State were shutout.
CBI's first year of doing the survey was 2009, and in that year, Baylor assistant head coach Mitch Thompson was named the Big 12's "assistant coach that is most ready for a head-coaching job." When the survey was released the following year, Thompson's name again showed up in that field. In 2011, the Bears' top assistant coach was once again given that honor.
Thompson is in his 17th season coaching at Baylor.
Baylor junior RHP Logan Verrett was named in two categories that might leave you scratching your head. Verrett was listed along with Texas' Taylor Jungmann and Cole Green as the Big 12's "top three starting pitchers." However, Verrett was also listed in a tie with Kansas' T.J. Walz as the conference's "most underrated pitcher." So, Verrett is thought of as one of the three best starting pitchers in the league and is also thought to be underrated.
Verrett's 13 Ks in a win over Texas A&M were the most ever by a BU pitcher at Baylor Ballpark.
Two-way standout Brooks Pinckard is probably best known for turning in the third highest saves total in program history when he successfully saved 12 games in 2010, but around the league, he's also known for his outfield defense. Pinckard was listed in a tie with Texas' Cohl Walla for the "best outfield arm."
Pinckard set a Baylor sophomore record with 12 saves in 2010.
Sophomore OF Logan Vick was also included on the list. Even after setting program records for walks (59) and posting the sixth-best single-season on-base percentage (.473) in program history, Vick was listed in a tie with Texas Tech's Barrett Barnes as the "most underrated hitter."
Vick's 10 HR in 2010 trail only teammate Max Muncy (11) for most ever by a BU freshman.
With three players listed in the survey, the Bears equaled their total from 2009. That year, Aaron Miller was listed as one of the "three biggest power threats," while Raynor Campbell and Shaver Hansen tied for "best defensive infielder." There were no Baylor players listed in the 2010 survey.
If you're anxious to see one of the Big 12's three best starting pitchers, who is also one of its most underrated, along with one of the two best outfield arms and one of the two most underrated hitters, you're in luck because the Bears will put their No. 16 nation ranking on the line at Baylor Ballpark in just 10 days.
Baylor opens the 2011 season by hosting the QTI Powers Opening Weekend Classic against Oral Roberts, with the series opener slated for 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18 at Baylor Ballpark. That's all for now, but don't forget to follow The Kaye Zone on Twitter.
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