Week in Review
9:45 P.M. SUNDAY, APRIL 26, 2009
In last Friday's series preview, we agreed not to go down the road of what being swept would do. Well, now we must go there. Oklahoma came to Baylor Ballpark and did what no other Big 12 team had ever done: won three straight games against the Bears at the facility in one weekend. In fact, only one team had ever done it: UC Irvine the first weekend of March in 2004.
The Bears were 0-5 last week, dropping five games in a calendar week for the first time since losing both ends of a doubleheader at home against Oral Roberts and getting swept at Rice the first week of April during the 1994 season. Yep, 15 years ago. Logan Verrett was 3. Steve Smith was an assistant coach at Mississippi State. The Pen was battling a brutal case of mononucleosis as a senior in high school. Pearl Jam was the greatest band in the land; oh, wait, that's still the case.
Baylor has lost six straight games for the first time since a six-game spill early in the 2004 season; the Bears haven't lost seven straight since dropping the final five games of the regular season and both games at the Big 12 Tournament in 2002. Remember, that seven-game skid did not keep the Bears from getting an NCAA bid. Going into last week, the Bears had not lost three straight games all season.
That's the bad news. Now, the good news.
Despite getting swept on the weekend, Baylor lost only one game in the Big 12 standings. The Bears went into the Oklahoma series one-and-a-half games behind the conference leader (Texas). Now, the Bears are two-and-a-half games behind the leader (Texas A&M).
Encouraging, yes; but there always is another side to the coin. Entering the weekend, Baylor trailed two teams and had already played only one of the two teams. Now, the Bears trail six teams, and they've already played all but one.
That being said, anyone who thinks the Big 12 cannot completely flip in one or two weeks hasn't followed the league this year. Remember when Texas was swept during the second week of the season and found itself in last place? Remember last week when the Horns swept Oklahoma and moved into first place with a 10-game winning streak? Remember a couple weeks ago when Texas A&M lost consecutive series at Texas Tech and at Kansas State? Remember last weekend when Oklahoma was "exposed" at Texas? Remember a couple weeks ago when Missouri limped out of Baylor Ballpark with its tails tucked after a 19-0 loss in the series finale? For those who think this league is not as balanced and as competitive as ever, consider this:
- Kansas swept Texas
- Texas swept Oklahoma
- Oklahoma swept Baylor
- Baylor won two of three against Kansas State
- Kansas State won two of three against Texas A&M
- Texas A&M swept Kansas
- Kansas swept Oklahoma State
- Oklahoma State won two of three against Missouri
- Missouri won two of three at Kansas State
- Kansas State won two of three at Texas and tied in the finale
- Texas won two of three against Texas Tech
- Texas Tech won two of three against Texas A&M
- Texas A&M won two of three against Baylor
- Baylor won two of three at Kansas
If that's not parody and a sign of how strong the league is this year, nothing is. Let's take a look at the Big 12 standings after Sunday's games:
Texas A&M 28-15 13-8 0.0 GB
Oklahoma 33-11 11-7 0.5 GB
Texas 29-11-1 12-8-1 0.5 GB
Kansas State 31-11-1 10-7-1 1.0 GB
Kansas 29-15 10-8 1.5 GB
Missouri 24-21 11-10 2.0 GB
Baylor 25-17 10-10 2.5 GB
Texas Tech 20-27 9-12 4.0 GB
Oklahoma State 28-17 6-11 5.0 GB
Nebraska 19-23 5-16 8.0 GB
With Missouri's resurgence, it is completely conceivable that the Big 12 will get seven NCAA bids this year. Courtesy of BoydsWorld.com, take a look at the psuedo-RPI rankings for the Big 12 entering Sunday's games (strength of schedule in parentheses):
7. Texas (12)
16. Oklahoma (17)
18. Baylor (8)
24. Oklahoma State (23)
27. Texas A&M (25)
29. Kansas State (50)
39. Missouri (14)
65. Kansas (44)
92. Nebraska (33)
100. Texas Tech (24)
Kansas' RPI is low, but the Jayhawks have sweeps over Texas and Oklahoma State to their credit. Missouri still is a bit low on the RPI side; but the Tigers passed the Bears in the Big 12 standings over the weekend, and they have a somewhat favorable remaining conference schedule (at Nebraska, Kansas). Oklahoma State is high on RPI but in ninth place in the standings; however, the Cowboys are four games out of fourth and five games out of first with nine league games remaining (Kansas State, Oklahoma, at Texas Tech).
If the Big 12 does not get seven bids this season it will be for two reasons: the Mountain West Conference and the Southland Conference.
The MWC has usually been a one-bid league. This year, that will be different. TCU is a lock, San Diego State probably is a lock, and BYU or New Mexico could join the fun by winning the league and/or conference tournament.
Think the Southland is not that strong? Texas State entered Sunday with a 30-10 record and an RPI of 35; Sam Houston State sits at 28-13 with an RPI of 49. If the Southland gets two bids (and The Pen thinks both those teams are deserving ... far more than deserving than some teams that will get non-automatic bids), the Big 12 likely will get only six teams. That's a shame. This year, the Big 12 deserves eight bids and the Southland deserves two. Geography wins again.
Remember our formula at the beginning of the season? Well, last week gave that formula a hit. First of all, the Bears now are 8-5 in midweek games; that's well below the .750 winning percentage goal. The Bears still have won at least two of three games in at least two-thirds of its weekends (seven of nine, to be exact with one split). What getting swept did was erase the 3-0 weekend the first week of March in the QTI Classic.
All this said, let's do this: focus on the fact that this a marathon, not a sprint. Seriously. There are three weeks left in the regular season, two more conference series to be played, and a week at Bricktown still ahead. A lot can change. Quickly. Just ask Texas. Just ask Oklahoma. Just ask Kansas State.
Take a look at that list of parody above. Notice something? Every team in this league has suffered at least one bad week. The key is to not let that one week define you.
Texas was 2-4 after getting swept at Kansas; the Horns responded by going 10-2 over its next four series. Oklahoma was swept last weekend at Texas; the Sooners responded with a road sweep at Baylor. Kansas State lost two of three at home against Missouri last weekend; the Wildcats responded by going 2-0-1 at Texas. Missouri was humbled and limping after that series at Baylor a couple weeks ago; the Tigers responded with five victories in their next six Big 12 games.
We're going to forego weekly honors and such this week. Let's just wipe last week out of our memory as quickly as possible. Learn from the mistakes, realize the Bears played three good teams who were - in those games - better, and move on.
How Baylor responds to this past week will define the season. At least, that's how The Pen sees it.
2:30 P.M. FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2009
Into every life a little rain must fall... and computers must die. But fear not: The Pen is mightier than the sword (if you catch the drift).
Baylor hosts Oklahoma in what is a pivotal three-game series for both teams. The Bears enter the weekend third in the Big 12 standings, one-and-a-half games behind Texas and one-half game behind Texas A&M. The Sooners enter the weekend in a three-way tie for fourth in the standings along with Kansas and Kansas State - one game behind Baylor and one game ahead of Texas Tech.
With two series remaining after this one, it's time to make hay for the Bears. A sweep puts Baylor in great position heading into next weekend's series against Texas regardless of what the Horns do this weekend against Kansas State or what the Aggies do this weekend at home against Oklahoma State. Remember, UT and A&M still have to play each other. Winning two of three against the Sooners keeps the Bears in good position, but the task would become more daunting should UT and/or A&M sweep. Losing two of three would be detrimental to the Bears' conference title hopes without serious help from Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Getting swept? Well, we'll just not go there.
All that said, let's take a look at the Sooners.
No. 13 OKLAHOMA (30-11, 8-7)
Head Coach: Sunny Golloway, 5th season at Oklahoma
Last Five: 2-3 Last 10: 5-5 Last Game: def. Wichita State 8-1 (4/22)
Game 1 Starter: Junior RHP Andrew Doyle (5-3, 3.96 ERA, 9 G, 9 GS, 0 CG, 61.1 IP, 61 H, 29 R, 27 ER, 12 BB, 42 K, 3 HR, .264 OBA) ... 3-2 with a 4.08 ERA in five Big 12 starts; 35.1 innings with 17 strikeouts in league play ... Wins vs. Western Illinois (2/20), vs. UCLA (3/6), vs. Nebraska (3/29), at Missouri (4/3) and vs. Texas Tech (4/10) ... Losses at Washington State (2/27), at Kansas State (3/20) and at Texas (4/18) ... Has worked at least 6.0 innings in eight of nine starts, going 5.2 innings at Kansas State ... Allowed three or fewer earned runs in six of nine starts and five earned runs in each of the other three (KSU, NU, UT) ... Nine strikeouts in first start of season vs. Western Illinois and seven strikeouts in no-decision vs. Bethune-Cookman (3/13); has not topped six strikeouts in any other outing ... Tossed 8.0 scoreless innings on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts against Texas Tech ... Averages 6.0 runs of support per start this season with high of 17 runs vs. Western Illinois and low of one run at Kansas State ... 15-7, 4.22 ERA in 46 career appearances with 24 starts ... Started middle game of 2008 series vs. Baylor at Norman ... Did not factor in the decision (3-2 OU win); allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts over 8.0 innings.
Game 2 Starter: Junior RHP Garrett Richards (5-1, 6.81 ERA, 10 G, 8 GS, 0 CG, 37.0 IP, 43 H, 29 R, 28 ER, 26 BB, 41 K, 6 HR, .299 OBA) ... 1-0 with a 7.94 ERA in six Big 12 appearances, three starts; 5.2 innings with 10 walks and six strikeouts in league play ... Wins vs. UCLA (3/8), vs. Central Arkansas (3/24), relief at Missouri (4/4), at Wichita State (4/8), vs. TCU (4/14) ... Lone loss vs. Eastern Illinois (3/15) ... No decision in last start in series finale last weekend at Texas ... Allowed four runs on two hits and seven walks with three strikeouts over 2.2 innings against the Horns ... Pitched 1.0 scoreless inning of relief Wednesday night vs. Wichita State ... Has logged at least 5.0 innings in only three of eight starts - UCLA (7.0), Central Arkansas (5.0) and TCU (5.0) ... Held Wichita State scoreless on one hit and two walks with seven strikeouts in a predetermined 4.0-inning start at Eck Stadium in Wichita (4/8) ... Averages 10.5 runs of support per start with high of 21 runs vs. Western Illinois (2/22) and low of five runs at Texas ... 7-2, 6.67 ERA, nine saves in 56 career appearances with nine starts ... Pitched twice in relief against Baylor in last year's series at Norman ... Allowed one hit with two strikeouts over 1.1 scoreless innings in series opener (11-2 OU win) ... Surrendered two runs on two hits and two walks with one strikeout over 1.1 innings in series finale (7-3 BU win) ... 0-0, 4.91 ERA, one save over 3.2 innings in four career outings vs. Baylor.
Game 3 Starter: Sophomore RHP Antowanie Hubbard (2-2, 2.81 ERA, 7 G, 7 GS, 25.2 IP, 21 H, 14 R, 8 ER, 13 BB, 24 K, 1 HR, .233 OBA) ... 0-2 with 3.86 ERA in two Big 12 appearances, both starts; 4.2 innings with four walks and seven strikeouts in league play ... Wins vs. Western Illinois (2/21) and vs. Wichita State (4/22) ... Losses at Missouri (4/5) and vs. Texas Tech (4/11) ... Missed three weeks in late March, early April due to a stress reaction in his fibula ... Has not pitched past the third inning in any of his last four starts, three of which were since returning from injury ... Held UCLA to one run on two hits and four walks with seven strikeouts over 6.0 innings in a no-decision (3/7) ... Earned victory in a predetermined 3.0-inning start Wednesday against Wichita State; allowed one hit and no walks with three strikeouts ... 6.43 runs of support per start this season with high of 10 runs at South Florida and low of one run vs. Texas Tech ... 3-2, 3.83 ERA in 21 career appearances with 10 starts ... Has never pitched against Baylor.
Players to Watch: CF Jamie Johnson (.339, 9 HR, 31 RBI) is 6-for-11 with one home run, three RBI and a double in three career games vs. Baylor. Johnson is tied for seventh in the Big 12 in homers and ranks fourth in the conference with 14 stolen bases. He also leads the conference with 53 runs scored. ... C J.T. Wise (.363, 12 HR, 38 RBI) ranks 10th in the Big 12 in batting average and tied for second in the league in home runs behind only Baylor's Shaver Hansen. Wise leads the conference with a .710 slugging percentage. ... 1B Aaron Baker (.291, 10 HR, 40 RBI) ranks sixth in the Big 12 in home runs. Wise and Baker give Oklahoma the league's only combo with at least 10 HRs each. ... 3B Garrett Buechele (.379, 4 HR, 31 RBI) is third in the conference in batting average, while SS Bryant Hernandez (.377, 6 HR, 44) ranks fifth in the league in batting average and tied for third in RBI. ... RHP Ryan Duke (2-0, 2.61 ERA) ranks third in the Big 12 with eight saves.
Tidbits: Oklahoma leads the Big 12 with a .330 batting average. The Sooners, Kansas State (.320) and Baylor (.309) comprise the league's top three teams. Oklahoma (64) and Baylor (57) rank first and second, respectively, in home runs. ... The Sooners are hitting .313 in Big 12 games, second in the league behind only Texas Tech (.320). ... Oklahoma ranks sixth in the conference with a 4.74 staff ERA. The Sooners have a 5.46 ERA in Big 12 games, also sixth in the league. ... Oklahoma is fourth in the Big 12 with a .972 team fielding percentage.
Baylor is 6-0 in Big 12 series against Oklahoma in Waco, including one sweep (2003). ... The home team has won this series each year since won two of three at Norman in 2000. However, 20 of the 24 regular-season meetings since that 2000 series have been decided by three runs or less, including 12 one-run games. ... Baylor and Oklahoma join Oklahoma State as the only programs that have qualified for the Big 12 postseason tournament each year in the league's existence. ... Neither Baylor nor Oklahoma has scored more than six runs in a game against each other at Baylor Ballpark since the Bears were 10-3 winners in the 2003 series finale. In fact, that is the only meeting between the two teams in 12 games at Baylor Ballpark since 2001 in which either team scored more than six runs.
Week in Review
1:45 P.M. MONDAY, APRIL 20, 2009
First of all, The Pen apologizes for no weekend preview last week. Extenuating circumstances created a situation where there was not enough time to do it justice. Please forgive; weekend preview will return for this weekend's Oklahoma series.
With that out of the way, let's look back at the week that was. The Bears posted a 2-2 record on the week, splitting a home-and-home midweek set against UT Arlington and splitting a conditions-shortened (?) two-game series at Oklahoma State. Baylor enters the season's 10th week with a 25-12 overall record and a 10-7 mark in Big 12 play.
So far, the Bears are 5-1-1 in weekend series. That's good. Baylor has not lost a weekend series since week four (Texas A&M), and the home team won each game of that series. In the two weekends in which Baylor played non-series (weeks two and three), the Bears were 5-1 with the lone loss coming against a very good Rice team. That's good. Baylor is 8-3 (.727) in midweek games, a hair below the goal (.750 winning percentage). That's not bad.
At this point, the Bears have - for the most part - matched our beginning-of-the-season plan for success. Remember that first weekend when the Bears won two of three against Pacific and didn't really knock any socks off in doing such? That Pacific squad that was coming off a 14-41 2008 season currently is third (7-5) in the always-strong Big West Conference after winning two of three at formerly top-ranked Cal State Fullerton over the weekend. That's really good. (RPI bonus points, anyone?)
Now comes gut-check time. In all likelihood, the next 14 days will determine whether Baylor is a national seed, a two-seed on the road, or something in between. With series against Oklahoma and Texas on the horizon and six games against three of the Southland Conference's best teams, the Bears can make a lot of movement up the list of potential national seeds in the next two weeks ... or slide completely out of the discussion. Not to mention: The Bears still have a more than legitimate shot at the Big 12 title.
Last Tuesday's game was - in The Pen's mind - inevitable. The Bears had won 10 consecutive one-run games; the law of averages said that had to end at some point. The disappointing thing about that game was the bats were rather lackluster most of the evening. That along with one poor outing on the mound and a poor night in field at one position was Baylor's demise at UT Arlington. Despite that, the Bears still strode to the plate in the ninth one swing away from tying the game.
Wednesday's 10-7 victory at home against UTA was maybe even a little more gut-wrenching that Tuesday's loss. The Bears built a 7-0 lead through the first two innings; six innings later, the Bears found themselves in a one-run game. Gut-check time. Raynor campbell's two-run homer and Logan Verrett's perfect ninth sealed the game.
Friday's game was almost a morph of the two midweek games. Baylor built a sizable lead only to see the opponent refuse to go away. An error was costly and nearly sank the ship. But a key Campbell two-run hit, an insurance run in the eighth and another solid Verrett relief job sealed the deal. Plus, Kendal Volz continues to show a return to the dominant starter he was in the season's first three weeks, allowing only two earned runs in a career-long, 8.1-inning outing.
Saturday, the Bears played really, really well in a one-run loss. The only thing missing was that one clutch hit: Baylor stranded five runners in scoring position. Again, The Pen chalks it up to the law of averages as the Bears had been flat-out lethal in such situations over the previous 10-15 games. Still, the Bears got the tying run on base in the ninth. Can't win 'em all.
The cancellation of Sunday's game was bittersweet. In all honesty, we will not know whether or not it was a blessing until season's end. Sometimes, the waiting is the hardest part.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Raynor Campbell, 3B, Jr., Katy, Texas
Campbell continued his torrid pace at the plate, climbing out of his early season doldrums. As one Big 12 head coach told The Pen recently, Campbell is too good of a hitter to stay down around .200 for long. Since going 0-for-2 March 31 against Texas State, Campbell has hit safely in 10 of 13 games with six multiple-hit games and a pair of three-hit outings. He also has blasted five home runs and delivered 17 RBI in that 13-game stretch. Last week was no different as Campbell hit safely in all four games with three two-hit games. Wednesday, he was 2-for-4 with a stolen base and hit a key two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth. Friday, he was 2-for-3 with two walks, two runs scored, two RBI and a stolen base in the series opener at Oklahoma State. However, it was his defense that played the biggest role in the Bears' 8-5 victory. Campbell cleanly played four missles in the game's first five outs, including two diving stops (one to the back-hand side). His play at the plate and in the field was crucial for the Bears.
PITCHERS OF THE WEEK
Shawn Tolleson, RHP, So., Allen, Texas
He's back. Tolleson made his first start in nearly a month Tuesday at UT Arlington and looked good - one unearned run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts over 5.0 innings. He took a no-decision after the bullpen let loose of the 3-1 leads with which Tolleson left. Saturday, he was perfect against Oklahoma State. Tolleson, who tossed a two-hit shutout against the Cowboys at Baylor Ballpark last season, retired all seven batters he faced with two strikeouts. Tolleson's return is huge for the Bears. He now has logged 9.1 innings over three appearances since returning to the mound, and the results have been good - two runs, one earned, on four hits and three walks with 11 strikeouts. Now the Bears have five pitchers all of whom have enjoyed solid success in a starting role. That will pay dividends come postseason.
The amount of rain in the outfield at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium by game time Sunday. Due to the lack of a sub-surface drainage system or even an at-surface drainage system, that water was going no where anytime soon. The decision to cancel the game partly was for safety purposes, but mainly for integrity of the game reasons. Any ball to the outfield - especially to the gaps - would have instantly turned into a water-logged shot put. The surprise was how much water still was standing in the outfield, not the decision to not play the game.
This week's biggest disappointment was the top of the seventh inning in Tuesday's game at UT Arlington. The Bears led 3-1 before the Mavericks grabbed a 5-3 lead with a four-run sixth. Baylor's next inning was atrocious - three up, three down, all looking on 11 pitches. Gregg Glime opened the inning and took three straight. Landis Ware fouled off three, took a ball and then was caught looking. Brooks Pinckard closed the inning by looking at three straight. Granted: The zone that night was at times suspect. But by the seventh inning, such is known, and adjustments should be made. And at such a crucial part in the game - immediately after the other team rallied for the lead with a big inning - it would have been nice to see more competitive at bats.
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE WEEK
Take your pick from Campbell's five plays in the first two innings of Friday night's game at Oklahoma State, but the first was the most important. Aaron Miller's two-run homer in the top of the first gave the Bears the early edge. Michael Dabbs led off the bottom of the first with a single, and Kevin David followed with a screamer to the left side. Campbell made a great snag on the ball, spun and got the force at second; the Bears nearly got a double play. If that ball gets through, suddenly OSU has runners at least at first and second with no outs. The chances of not having the two-run advantage erased would have dropped significantly.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Remember a month ago when Texas was in last place? That was a month ago. The Longhorns have won four straight series since being swept at Kansas, including sweeps in each of the last two series. Texas has won seven straight conference games, defeating Oklahoma 7-3, 6-2 and 8-5 over the weekend. The Horns continue to follow a strong formula for success: pitching (8 ER over 26.0 IP vs. Oklahoma - 2.77 ERA), defense (one error in three games vs. Oklahoma) and timely hitting (10-for-33 with RISP and eight two-out RBI vs. Oklahoma). ... Nebraska continued its slide into the basement of the conference standings; the Huskers were swept for the third straight weekend - this time at Texas A&M. This weekend was ugly for Nebraska - out-scored 28-4, 15 walks in three games and six hit batters in Friday's opener. ... Kansas State and Kansas both fell victim to the Top 25 curse, both staving off sweeps with Sunday wins. The Wildcats dropped two of three at home against Missouri, while Kansas dropped two of three at Texas Tech. K-State had a good chance to win that series. A.J. Morris started the top of the ninth inning having out-dueled Missouri's Kyle Gibson as the Wildcats led 2-0; however, the Tigers scored four runs in the ninth, two of which were off Morris. The Cats got a run back in the bottom of the ninth and loaded the bases with one out. Adam Muenster, who at the time was 0-for-4 against Gibson, then bunted through a changeup on a suicide squeeze attempt, and Jordan Cruz was tagged out between third and home. Muenster then grounded out to end the game. ... Here is a look at the current Big 12 standings along with each team's remaining series.
Texas 12-6 --- 29-8 Kansas State, BAYLOR**, Texas A&M*
Texas A&M 11-7 1.0 25-14 Oklahoma State, Texas**, at Oklahoma
BAYLOR 10-7 1.5 25-12 Oklahoma, Texas*, at Nebraska
Kansas 8-7 2.5 25-14 Nebraska, at Oklahoma, at Missouri, Kansas State*
Kansas State 8-7 2.5 29-11 at Texas, at Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas**
Oklahoma 8-7 2.5 29-11 at BAYLOR, Kansas, Oklahoma State***, Texas A&M
Texas Tech 9-9 3.0 18-24 at Missouri, at Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Missouri 8-10 4.0 21-20 Texas Tech, at Nebraska, Kansas
Oklahoma State 5-9 5.0 25-15 at Texas A&M, Kansas State, Oklahoma***, at Texas Tech
Nebraska 4-14 8.0 17-21 at Kansas, Missouri, BAYLOR
* - split series, two home games
** - split series, one home game
*** - game one at Tulsa, game two at Oklahoma City
UPCOMING BAYLOR OPPONENTS
Baylor faces the top two teams in the Southland Conference this week: Sam Houston State (25-13, 14-7) and Texas State (27-10, 15-5). Both enter the week red hot. ... Sam Houston State, coached by former Texas A&M head coach Mark Johnson, has won seven straight after sweeping at Nicholls State over the weekend (6-0, 12-0, 9-2). SHSU pitching coach is former Baylor volunteer assistant Chris Berry. 3B Seth Hammock, who began his collegiate career at Baylor, is hitting .301 with four home runs and 26 RBI. ... Texas State has won eight straight after sweeping a rain-shortened, two-game series at Northwestern State over the weekend. The Bobcats are 17-3 since falling to Baylor 22-17 at San Marcos five weeks ago.
Baylor has produced 99 two-out RBI this season while holding its opponents to 49 two-out RBI. The Bears have 46 two-out RBI in their last 12 games. ... Dustin Dickerson and/or Aaron Miller have hit safely in every game since both were hitless in the season opener. In fact, both have hit safely in 27 of Baylor's 37 games, including each of the last 12. ... The Pen still contends that Eskimo Joe's is overrated. Let the hate mail begin. ... Tuesday, The Pen and Tom Barfield will eat lunch at Farmhouse Cafe in Huntsville. Now THAT'S a good restaurant.
Week in Review
10:30 P.M. MONDAY, APRIL 13, 2009
A day late but not a dollar short. The Pen decided to take advantage of the open date Sunday and the Easter holiday for a much-needed midseason two-day break. Now, we're recharged and ready for the home stretch.
Baylor has 19 games remaining in its 2009 regular season. After taking two of three against Missouri last weekend, the Bear are 23-10 overall and 9-6 in the Big 12 Conference. Baylor is tied with Texas for second place in the league standings, one half game back of Oklahoma.
The Bears are 4-1 in Big 12 series this season with four remaining; those four remaining series come against the teams current in the league's top two spots (Oklahoma and Texas) and the league's two bottom spots (Oklahoma State and Nebraska). Baylor gets Oklahoma and Texas at home (aside from the Texas series opener at Austin) and travels for the OSU and Nebraska series.
While that looks like a somewhat favorable remaining schedule, let's not count our chickens before they've even been laid. Success has been elusive for the Bears at Stillwater and Lincoln. Texas has won three consecutive series with one sweep, and Oklahoma has not lost a series of any kind all season.
All that being said, the Bears are in pretty good shape and definitely control their own destiny over the regular season's final month. Baylor is off to its best 33-game start since the 2003 also started 23-10. According to Boyd Nation of www.BoydsWorld.com, Baylor has the nation's 17th-best RPI and 23rd-best strength of schedule. Nation also projects what record each team would need to post down the stretch in order to have an RPI of 1-8, 9-16, 17-32 or 33-45. It's not an exact science, but it is interesting.
That table also shows each team's remaining opponents' winning percentage, but it calculates it for all games. Baylor's remaining strength of schedule ranks second in the Big 12 behind only Oklahoma. But let's look at what each team faces down the stretch in terms of remaining opponents' winning in Big 12 games only:
Baylor ................. .463, 25-29 (at OSU, OU, at/vs./vs. UT, at NU)
Kansas ............... .464, 32-37 (at TT, NU, at OU, at MU, at/vs./vs. KSU)
Kansas State ....... .478, 33-36 (MU, at UT, at OSU, TT, vs./at/at KU)
Missouri .............. .429, 25-29 (at KS, TT, at NU, KU)
Nebraska ............ .526, 30-27 (at A&M, at KU, MU, BU)
Oklahoma ........... .529, 37-33 (at UT, at BU, KU, vs. OSU, A&M)
Oklahoma State ... .565, 39-30 (BU, at A&M, KSU, vs. OU, at TT)
Texas ................. .593, 32-22 (OU, KSU, vs./at/at BU, at/vs./vs. A&M)
Texas A&M .......... .463, 25-29 (NU, OSU, vs./at/at UT, at OU)
Texas Tech ......... .471, 24-27 (KU, at MU, at KSU, OSU)
This shows that Missouri (.429), Baylor (.463), Texas A&M (.463) and Kansas have the easiest remaining schedules strictly in terms of opponents' league winning percentage. It also shows that Texas has by far the toughest remaining schedule (.593), followed by Oklahoma State (.565), Oklahoma (.529) and Nebraska (.526).
Baylor posted a 3-2 record last week, winning its conference series two games to one and spliting a pair of midweek games. The Bears continued to look very good at the plate. Sure, Dallas Baptist held the Bears to three runs, but the Patriots had their No. 2 pitcher on the mound while the Bears opened with two true freshmen.
Baylor again was held to three runs in the Missouri series opener, but it should not go unnoticed that it was one of the Bears' best approach nights of the season at the plate. The 11-inning win over Missouri was a great game, and the Bears once again showed their late-inning strength. Baylor then closed the series with a 19-0, seven-inning victory. Consider: Baylor scored 18-plus runs in only seven innings twice last week (18-1 in seven innings Tuesday against Northwestern State). Impressive.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Dustin Dickerson, 1B, Jr., McGregor, Texas
Dickerson also was named Big 12 Player of the Week, becoming the third Bear to earn the league's weekly honor this season. It was the second consecutive week a Baylor player won as Shaver Hansen was last week's winner. ... Dickerson hit .600 (12-for-20) on the week with three doubles, a home run, three RBI and eight runs scored in five games. He hit safely in each game, pushing his career-long hitting streak to 19 games. That's the longest in the Big 12 this season and tied for the seventh-longest in Baylor history. Furthermore, Dickerson has hit safely in 14 consecutive Big 12 games and in 20 of 21 league games dating back to last season. He has only gotten stronger as the streak has progressed, recording multiple-hit games in five of the Bears' last six games. Dickerson, who has two four-hit games during his streak, hit safely in each of his final five at bats on the week. The first of those five hits was a bases-loaded, walk-off single in the 11th inning of the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. That was a good way to keep that streak alive as he was hitless in his first four at bats in the game. ... Dickerson started the season 0-for-4. He hit safely in three of his next four at bats. His average has not dipped below .339 since. Currently, he leads the team and ranks fifth in the Big 12 with a .379 average.
PITCHERS OF THE WEEK
Willie Kempf, RHP, Jr., Castroville, Texas
No offense to Texas Tech's Chad Bettis, but Kempf deserved Big 12 Pitcher of the Week honors. Bettis allowed one run on four hits and four walks with nine strikeouts in a complete-game 4-1 victory as the Red Raiders salvaged the final game of the series at Oklahoma. Bettis took a shutout into the ninth but lost it on a one-out sacrifice fly. Kempf, meanwhile, tossed a seven-inning, two-hit shutout with no walks and 12 strikeouts in Baylor's 19-0 victory to win the Missouri series. Bettis was deserving of pitcher of the week honors, but no more so than Kempf. Sure, Kempf only went seven innings and he had a 19-run lead. But should he be punished for his team scoring runs? Odds are Kendal Volz doesn't think so. Kempf pitched the maximum number of innings the rules of the game allowed him to pitch. And allowed two hits. Both were singles. Only one runner reached scoring position. He had 12 strikeouts. And no walks. Kempf was as impressive as he's ever been in a Baylor uniform. ... Honorable mention goes to LHP Aaron Miller, who tied a Baylor single-game record for strikeouts in relief with 10 over 8.0 innings against Missouri in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. His ability to put the clamps on Missouri's offense (two runs, seven hits, no walks) made Dickerson's 11th-inning heroics possible. Miller provides strong relief pitching over several innings, and Dickerson provides a game-winning hit. Where have we heard that before?
In a week where there were not that many surprises, Willie Kempf's performance takes the banner. Kempf having a good outing was a surprise. Kempf having that type of outing was a surprise. Even in his best outings earlier in his career, Kempf has been a high pitch count guy. He has always worked deep into counts and lost three or four batters to walks. Not Saturday. And he looked completely comfortable on the mound. Sure, a 19-run lead breeds comfort, but he looked comfortable from the game's first batter. Ryan Lollis' leadoff infield single did not seem to bother him at all, nor did anything else. It was as effortless a performance on the mound for Baylor in quite some time.
The Pen is hesitant to go here, but some of the cat calls from the stands during the first few innings of the first game of Saturday's doubleheader were down-right disappointing. If a 5-1, third-inning deficit is too much to bear, maybe baseball isn't the sport for you. If a 5-1, third-inning deficit is too much to bear in regard to this Baylor team, do some homework. The Bears have come from behind in 12 of their 23 wins this season; six times that deficit was at least two runs and twice it was four runs or more. Regardless of those facts, a fan should encourage his or her team. The Pen is confident that anyone who reads this blog is not in the Deputy Downer camp, but it was disheartening to hear some of the comments from the stands. The best (worst) was one person who declared the game and the series over when Missouri pushed its lead to 5-1. Guess not.
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE WEEK
After a few weeks of no highlight-reel worthy defensive plays, the Bears provided several this week. Three are worth mentioning, and all three happened in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. ... Missouri led 3-1 in the second inning with runners at first and second and two outs. Trevor Coleman appeared to rip a Logan Verrett offering through the left side, but Raynor Campbell's all-out diving snag kept the ball in the infield. Campbell wasn't finished, though, popping up and gunning a strike to first for the third out of the inning. The play saved at least one run. ... Kyle Mach led off the top of the ninth with a single to left. After Andrew Thigpen struck out, Mach tried to steal second so as to put himself in scoring position. He picked a good pitch on which to run, too, as Miller went with a breaking ball. It may have been a hit-and-run as the batter (Michael Liberto) swung over the top of the pitch for a strike. The impressive play was made by Gregg Glime, who had to block the ball, pick it and still was able to throw out Mach at second. And it really wasn't even close. Miller went on to strikeout Liberto for the third out of the inning, but Glime's block-pick-throw was amazing. ... Even with those plays - and on any other week they probably would have won - the defensive play of the week was Brooks Pinckard's running catch in the gap to close the bottom of the 10th. After Aaron Senne reached on a two-out single, Greg Flogia laced one to deep right-center. Pinckard showed his gazelle-like speed and ran down the ball on the warning track. It saved a run and the game. Pinckard made a similar catch on Lollis' liner to the right-center gap to open the inning.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Suddenly, Baylor's series win at Kansas looks even better. The Jayhawks have two home sweeps in Big 12 play after taking down Oklahoma State three times at Hoglund Ballpark over the weekend. Couple that with a sweep of Texas, and KU is 7-2 at home in Big 12 play. Furthermore, the Jayhawks are 18-2 overall at home this season. Make that: 18-and-Baylor. ... Nebraska looks to be in serious trouble after being swept at home by Texas. The Huskers have lost nine straight, including seven straight Big 12 games. Texas, meanwhile, has won eight of nine overall and seven of eight in league play. ... Oklahoma won the first two games of its series against Texas Tech in Norman, tossing a shutout in each game. Andrew Doyle went 8.0 innings on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts in the opener, turning it over to Jarrett Semler for the ninth. Stephen Porlier (he's back) earned his first win of the season in the second game, tossing 5.0 shutout innings on two hits and a walk with five strikeouts. It was Porlier's first start in 23 months; the 2007 second-team All-Big 12 honoree missed all of last season due to a torn labrum. ... Kansas State earned its first series win against Texas A&M since 2005, and the Wildcats were close to a sweep. With Lance Hoge on the mound in the series opener, the Wildcats led 2-0 through seven innings. However, the Aggies rallied for a four-run eighth to win 4-2. Kansas State bounced back with a 6-4 victory in the second game; A.J. Morris moved to 9-0 with the win. The Wildcats rallied for two ninth-inning runs for a 4-3 victory in the finale. Mike Kindel tied the game with an RBI single, and Carter Jurica provided the game-winner with a sacrifice fly. ... Here's a look at the standings:
Oklahoma (8-4, 28-8)
BAYLOR (9-6, 23-10)
Texas (9-6, 24-8)
Kansas (7-5, 23-12)
Kansas State (7-5, 26-9)
Texas A&M (8-7, 21-14)
Texas Tech (7-8, 16-23)
Missouri (6-9, 17-19)
Oklahoma State (4-8, 21-14)
Nebraska (4-11, 16-18-1)
UPCOMING BAYLOR OPPONENTS
Baylor plays a home-and-home with UT Arlington this week. The Bears and Mavericks play Tuesday night in Arlington and Wednesday night at Baylor Ballpark. UTA (18-16, 11-7) currently is tied for second in the Southland Conference, two games behind Texas State. The Mavericks won two of three at home against McNeese State over the weekend. UTA took the first two games, winning 8-7 in 10 innings in the opener and 18-8 in 10 innings in the second game. McNeese State won the finale 2-1 in 10 innings.
Baylor batters are 10-for-13 in extra innings this season. ... Baylor is 20-1 when leading after six innings, winning 19 consecutive such games since falling to Pacific in the season's second game. The Bears are 15-0 when leading after eight innings. ... Shaver Hansen is 6-for-7 with two outs over the last six games. He leads the team with 16 two-out RBI, eight of which have come in the last six games. ... Baylor hit .397 with two outs and produced 25 two-out RBI in five games last week.
3:15 P.M. FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2009
A very abbreviated preview for hte Missouri series follows. Due to Sunday's expected weather, the Bears and Tigers are scheduled to play 27 innings of baseball in a 28-hour window. Should be fun.
MISSOURI (16-17, 5-7)
Head Coach: Tim Jamieson, 15th season at Kansas
Last Five: 2-3 Last 10: 5-5 Last Game: def. Minnesota 20-5 (4/8)
Game 1 Starter: Junior RHP Kyle Gibson (4-3, 3.00 ERA, 8 G, 8 GS, 3 CG, 51.0 IP, 42 H, 18 R, 17 ER, 11 BB, 75 K, 1 HR, .223 OBA) ... Fastball (94-96), Slider, Change ... Considered one of the nation's top starting pitchers and projected to be a high first-round pick in June's MLB Draft ... Roommate of Baylor's Kendal Volz during USA Baseball National Team's 2008 Tour ... 2-2 with a 3.41 ERA in four Big 12 starts ... Wins against Nevada, Ball State, Texas ... Losses against Arizona State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma ... Winless in last three starts, allowing 12 earned runs over 12.0 innings ... Tossed complete game last weekend at Oklahoma but still suffered loss ... Allowed two runs on six hits and a walk with 15 strikeouts against Sooners ... Has record 10-plus strikeouts in four of eight starts, including 16 against Texas A&M (3/20) ... Two-time Big 12 Pitcher of the Week ... Has faced Baylor twice in his career, holding Bears to a .143 batting average (4-for-28) ... Tossed 7.0-inning complete game against Baylor in last year's series finale at Columbia; allowed two unearend runs (the only runs Baylor scored in the series) on four hits and two walks with nine strikeouts ... Is vastly inferior to The Pen in spades.
Game 2 Starter: Senior RHP Ian Berger (2-3, 6.17 ERA, 12 G, 11 GS, 35.0 IP, 38 H, 32 R, 24 ER, 13 BB, 27 K, 4 HR, .277 OBA) ... Fastball (87-89), Slider, Change ... Berger may start, but the pitcher should be listed as Johnny Wholestaff (or his twin brother Charley) as the Tigers have typically thrown a different pitcher each inning in Berger starts ... Missouri has used Wholestaff 10 times, using at least eight pitchers in each game and as many as 11 pitchers twice ... Wholestaff is 8-2 with a 2.83 ERA and two shutouts with 65 strikeouts against 26 walks over 89.0 innings; opponents are hitting .237 ... Current Baylor players are 4-for-28 (.143) during their careers against Berger; Shaver Hansen has three of the four hits.
Game 3 Starter: Sophomore RHP Nick Tepesch (2-2, 5.48 ERA, 8 G, 7 GS, 44.1 IP, 55 H, 30 R, 27 ER, 10 BB, 51 K, 9 HR, .302 OBA) ... Fastball (90-94), Slider, occasional Change ... Wins against Ball State and Oklahoma ... Losses against Gonzaga and Oklahoma State ... Took no decisions in starts against Arizona State, Texas and Texas A&M ... Allowed four runs on six hits and three walks with nine strikeouts over 6.0 innings in last start - last weekend against Oklahoma ... Pitched final two innings of last year's second game perfectly with one strikeout.
Players to Watch: RF Aaron Senne (.304, 0 HR, 20 RBI) is considered one of the league's best power hitters but has yet to record his first homer of the season. Senne participated int he 2008 USA Baseball National Team Trials. ... LF Greg Folgia (.307, 4 HR, 27 RBI) and CF Ryan Lollis (.300, 3 HR, 26) have been the Tigers most consistent hitters for most of the season. ... C Trevor Coleman (.224, 4 HR, 19 RBI) has struggled at the plate some this season, but he still is considered one of the nation's top offensive catchers.
Tidbits: Missouri head coach Tim Jamieson and Baylor head coach Steve Smith are co-deans of the Big 12 coaches. Smith and Jamieson started at their respective schools in 1995. Smith was head coach of the 2005 USA Baseball National Team for which Jamieson was an assistant coach.
Missouri is the only Big 12 team Baylor has never swept. The Tigers recorded the series' only sweep last season. Prior to that, it was the only Big 12 series that had never been swept by either team. ... Current Baylor players are 8-for-62 in their careers against Missouri's three announced starting pitchers.
Week in Review
11:50 P.M. SUNDAY, APRIL 5, 2009
Any series win on the road is a good win ... especially this season. Prior to this weekend, only one road team had won a series in Big 12 play; that came two weeks ago when Oklahoma won two of three at Kansas State. This weekend, four of the five Big 12 road teams won their series. More on that later.
Baylor was 3-2 on the week, including a Big 12 series win on the road. Not outstanding, but definitely good ... and definitely in line with our formula for success (if you don't know it by now, scroll down to past reviews for a refresher course).
Tuesday was a case of the game getting the best of the Bears. Texas State played a better all-around game and had a few more breaks fall its way in a 5-3 victory at Baylor Ballpark. The loss definitely was not a bad one. The Bobcats are 19-11 overall and 10-5 in a much-improved Southland Conference after taking two of three at Central Arkansas over the weekend. Furthermore, Texas State was 54th in RPI entering Sunday according to www.BoydsWorld.com.
The Bears played much better and got healthy at the plate Wednesday with a 14-1 thrashing of Prairie View A&M. It could have been taken as a ho-hum victory, but let's look deeper. Prairie View starter Terry Salter completely handcuffed the Bears at Baylor Ballpark two years ago, holding BU to one unearned run on two hits over 4.0 innings. In that game, Four active Bears played in that game: Ben Booker, Raynor Campbell, Dustin Dickerson and Shaver Hansen. That quartet was 1-for-7 against Salter in 2007; Campbell had the lone hit, a one-out bunt single that broke up a perfect game in the fourth inning. This year, the Bears got Salter out of the game in the first inning. Baylor was one run shy of the school record for first-inning runs, producing its highest first-inning run total in 23 years.
Taking two of three at Kansas is not what it used to be. The Kansas program has vastly improved during Ritch Price's tenure, especially on the mound. That may seem like an exagerated statement considering the Bears' eight-homer, 21-run performance in Sunday's finale, but it simply is the case. T.J. Walz tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout Saturday, and Friday starter Shaeffer Hall was every bit as good as - if not better than - Baylor starter Kendal Volz. Kansas and Kansas State both have made tremendous strides in the past half-decade, and that is nothing but good for the Big 12. There are no more easy weeks in this conference. The league is now strong top to bottom.
As for the wind in Kansas, it definitely played a factor in the last two games. Sure, a few of the Bears' homers Sunday would not have gotten out of the yard on a calm day, but Booker's homer and all of Hansen's bombs were no-doubters that only went further because of the wind. Saturday, the wind was blowing in from right-center at virtually the same speed. That wind cost the Bears three or four homers, including a monster shot from Aaron Miller that was caught at the wall. It all evens out.
So, the Bears return to Waco 20-9 overall and 7-5 in Big 12 play. How balanced is the league this year? Consider: First place Oklahoma (6-3) and last place Nebraska (4-8) are separated by three-and-a-half games; only four teams are above .500 in league play, and only Oklahoma is more than two games above .500. The Big 12 definitely resembles the SEC this year in that a .650 winning percentage may produce a regular-season title.
Now, let's look back at the week that was...
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Shaver Hansen, SS, Jr., Grand Junction, Colo.
Hansen gets the nod for the second consecutive week, and what a week it was for the switch-hitter. He produced a .350 batting average (7-for-20) with five home runs, 23 total bases and a 1.150 slugging percentage in five games. Hansen hit safely in four of the week's five games and homered in three of the five. He has homered in six of the last 10 games with eight round-trippers in that span. If he had played only the last 10 games, he still would lead the Bears and rank fourth in the league in homers. As it is, Hansen is the first Baylor infielder with 10-plus home runs in a season since Michael Griffin had 10 in 2004. Hansen's 11 home runs are the most by a Baylor infielder since Matt Williams (19) and Eric Nelson (17) in 1999. His three-homer day Sunday was Baylor's first in a Big 12 game since Nelson had three at Kansas in 1999. Keep in mind: Those 1999 numbers were back in the minus-five days (bat weight-length ratio). With his five-homer week, Hansen vaulted into the Big 12 lead for homers; furthermore, he now lead the league with six home runs in confernce games. ... Honorable mention nod to OF Ben Booker, who continues his torrid post-March 17 pace. Booker was 8-for-13 with one home run, six RBI, a double, seven runs scored and a .923 slugging percentage on the week. Also, his single started the Bears' three-run rally in the ninth Friday; he alertly took second when the ball got away from the Kansas shortstop in foul territory and scored the tying run.
CO-PITCHERS OF THE WEEK
Criag Fritsch, RHP, So., Round Rock, Texas
Aaron Miller, LHP, Jr., Channelview, Texas
The relief work these two gave the Bears was paramount in the series win at Kansas. Miller tossed 4.0 scoreless innings on four hits and no walks with five strikeouts Friday night. His ability to put zeroes on the board made the Bears' ninth-inning rally possible. Sunday, Fritsch was the one with the stellar bullpen performance; he held the Jayhawks scoreless on three hits and a walk with five strikeouts over 3.2 innings to earn his first save of the season. The importance of Fritsch's outing may be lost in the box score of a 21-9 victory. However, he entered the game with the Bears clinging to an 11-9 lead on a day where littlerally no lead was safe. Fritsch, who looked much improved despite taking the loss against Texas State, stymied the KU batters from the get-go, striking out the first two batters he faced. Overall, it was a great weekend for the Bears' bullpen. Miller, Fritsch, Trent Blank and Reed Woytek combined for 12 strikeouts in 10.2 innings and allowed only one run.
Head coach Steve Smith decided after Wednesday night's game to make a change in the Bears' 27-man roster for the Kansas series. Kenton Gedwed. What a move. Gedwed, who has seen very little action since lettering as a redshirt freshman in 2007, was hitless in four career Big 12 at bats before Friday night's game. He changed that with a pinch-hit, game-tying RBI single up the middle. As Gedwed strode to the plate, assistant coach Mitch Thompson suggested a sacrifice bunt to get Booker to third with one out. "Nope," Smith said. "Gedwed's going to tie the game up." We're only a little more than halfway through the regular season, so there is a lot of baseball left to be played. But seemingly unexpected performances like Gedwed's are the mark of really good teams. Last weekend against Kansas State, Landis Ware failed to get a bunt down and then blasted a two-run homer that proved to be the difference in the game. Here's hoping that in June we look back at Gedwed's single and Ware's homer as memorable moments in a memorable season. ... All that being said, the week's biggest surprise came off the field. At 3:09 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday morning, the fire alarm at the Best Western in Lawrence sounded. Rumor has it that Baylor radioman Tom Barfield hit the deck as if he were on fire. It turned out to be a false alarm; most of us on the first floor only stuck our heads out of our rooms. When the alarm went off again at 4:06 a.m., it was another false alarm. Good thing since rumor also has it that Barfield slept through that one. This is the seventh time in The Pen's 15 years of traveling with college athletics teams that a fire alarm has sounded in a hotel at which our team was staying. All seven times it sounded in the middle of the night. What was that song back in the early 1990s by C+C Music Factory?
A couple weeks ago, we looked at some statistics about the odds of scoring a run when getting the leadoff batter on base. Boyd Nation of BoydsWorld.com did some research on this prior to this season (see the results of that research here). Do some research on virtually any team, any league, any season and you'll find that leadoff walks score about 80 percent of the time. Unfortunately, leadoff walks have plagued Baylor pitchers all season and seemingly more so recently. The Bears issued 14 leadoff walks in the Kansas series and 11 of them scored (again, The Pen often struggles with math, but that's roughly 80 percent ... OK, 78.6 percent to be exact). Friday, Kendal Volz issued five no-out walks - including three leadoff walks - and all five scored. In the seventh inning Sunday, Craig Fritsch walked the leadoff batter and he was stranded at third. In reality, the runner should have scored; trailing 16-9 at that point, Kansas decided to hold the runner at third on a single to right - even with Aaron Miller's strong arm, the runner probably would have scored on the play. Nonetheless, that was the first leadoff walk Baylor pitchers had stranded since the third inning of the second game of the Texas Tech series. In that time, four leadoff walks were erased on double plays, two were caught stealing and another was picked off. Each of the other 14 leadoff walks in that time scored. But there is a flip side to this story. Baylor batters have drawn 13 leadoff walks in that time and only three have scored (apparently, the 80 percent rule doesn't apply to opposing pitchers). Two of the other 10 leadoff walks were stranded, six were erased on double plays and the other two were erased on fielder's choices. Baylor pitchers need to cut down leadoff walks and do a better job of regrouping when one is issued. On the flip side, the Bears need to do more with the leadoff walks they get.
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE WEEK
Baylor did not have any highlight-reel defensive plays this week. In fact, the Bears made far more poor defensive plays than even really good plays this week. Through three innings Sunday, Baylor's outfield already had committed all three types of errors an outfield can make: dropped fly ball, fielding error and throwing error. So, an opponent gets the defensive play of the week for the second time this season. Had it not been for the three-run rally in the ninth inning, it would have cost the Bears a win. With Baylor trailing 6-5 Friday night, Raynor Campbell led off the fifth inning with a double. Dustin Dickerson followed with a scorched liner to deep left-center, but Kansas center fielder Jason Brunasky (son of former Major Leaguer Tom Brunansky) made a running snag of the ball on the warning track. If Brunansky had not made the catch, Campbell would have scored easily. Furthermore, Campbell failed to tag on the play; that was costly, too, as Shaver Hansen followed with a deep fly down the left-field line on which Campbell would have been able to score. Two innings later, Campbell ripped a two-out double. Dickerson followed with a chopper up the middle. Kansas second baseman Robby Price played the ball well and got a hustling Dickerson on a bang-bang play at first. Campbell was sliding across the plate when the out was recorded at first.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Contrary to what has been the norm so far this season, four of the five road teams won their series. The lone exception was Texas A&M, which dropped two of three at Texas Tech. Brooks Raley (TAMU) suffered his first loss of the season in the opener as Tech used a three-run first, a Chris Richburg sixth-inning RBI single and solid relief pitching to grab a 4-3 win. The Aggies evened the series with a 13-7 victory Saturday; Luke Anders homered twice and had five RBI. Sunday, the Red Raiders got a first-inning, two-run homer from Scott LeJeune and a five-run second to stake a 7-0 lead. A&M chipped away at the deficit, but Miles Morgan and Chad Bettis made the early lead stand as the Raiders won 10-6. ... Kansas State and Nebraska altered their series to a Friday doubleheader and a Saturday single game due to the threat of inclement weather in Lincoln later in the weekend. In hindsight, the Huskers would have been better off to let the weather run its course. K-State swept the series 15-1, 9-3 and 5-3. The Wildcats opened the weekend with a five-run first and never looked back. A.J. Morris moved to 8-0 on the season with another solid outing in the series' second game. Saturday, K-State again struck early, this time with a three-run first. Nebraska pulled to within one run at 3-2 after five innings, but the Wildcats got single runs in the seventh and eighth innings. Nebraska stranded runners at first and second in the ninth. THe Huskers have lost five straight and seven of eight. ... Texas took two of three at Oklahoma State. The Horns won the opener 7-2 thanks to a five-run second. OSU evened the series Saturday with a 7-1 victory. Tyler Blanford and Randy McMurry held Texas to four hits and the Cowboys got home runs from Dean Green and Eric Walker. UT rebounded for an 8-5 victory in Sunday's finale. A four-run fourth erased OSU's 3-1 lead and the Horns never trailed again, despite two homers from Cowboys' leadoff man Michael Dabbs. ... Oklahoma keeps rolling along. The Sooners have taken two of three in each of their first three Big 12 series of the season - at Kansas State, Nebraska and at Missouri this weekend. Andrew Doyle out-dueled Kyle Gibson in a 2-1 game Friday night. Doyle allowed one run on four hits and no walks with six strikeouts over 8.0 innings, while Ryan Duke notched his sixth save in the ninth. Gibson fell to 4-3 on the season despite tossing his third complete game (all in league play), Gibson, who leads the league with 75 strikeouts in 51.1 innings, allowed two runs on six hits and one walk with 15 Ks. Oklahoma overcame a 3-2 deficit with a four-run fifth Saturday en route to a 7-4 victory. Missouri once again used its Charley Wholestaff strategy but it failed for the first time in four efforts. The Tigers rebounded for an 5-4 victory Sunday. Missouri scored five runs in the second and that was just enough offense. Oklahoma pulled to within one run thanks to a two-run seventh, but the Sooners stranded two runners that inning and managed only a one-out, eighth-inning single the rest of the way. ... Here is how the league standings look after this weekend's games:
Oklahoma (6-3, 25-7)
Texas A&M (7-5, 20-11)
BAYLOR (7-5, 20-8)
Kansas State (5-4, 24-8)
Texas (6-6, 20-8)
Texas Tech (6-6, 14-19)
Kansas (4-5, 18-12)
Oklahoma State (4-5, 21-10)
Missouri (5-7, 15-16)
Nebraska (4-8, 16-14-1)
UPCOMING BAYLOR OPPONENTS
Baylor enjoys a five-game home stand this week, hosting two midweek games and Missouri over the weekend. The Bears face Northwestern State at 6:30 p.m. CDT Tuesday and Dallas Baptist at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. ... Northwestern State (14-13) won two of three at home against Nicholls State over the weekend. The Demons are 6-10 on the road this season. Baylor and Northwestern State have played one common opponent: Houston Baptist. The Bears defeated HBU 15-4 at home in late February, while the Demons swept a three-game series against HBU at home that weekend. ... Dallas Baptist (19-8) is one of the nation's top Division I Independents. The Patriots split a home-and-home midweek set with the Bears last season and were an NCAA Regional participant. DBU swept a Thursday-through-Saturday three-game series against Houston Baptist at home over the weekend and has won seven of its eight. The Patriots, who host Oral Roberts for an afternoon game Tuesday, have played only five games away from their home field this season. DBU is 1-4 in those games, winning at 11-2 Texas Tech. The Patriots lost 6-0 at TCU, 3-0 at Texas, 11-8 at Rice and 13-6 to Rice in a game played in Frisco. Baylor and DBU have played no other common opponents this season.
Baylor's three-homer seventh inning Sunday was its first since a four-homer seventh against Centenary in 2003. Michael Griffin homered against Centenary in that inning to complete Baylor's first cycle since 1978. ... Sunday marked just the fourth time Baylor scored at least 20 runs in a Big 12 game; it was the first time the Bears had accomplished the feat on the road. The previous three games all were during the 1999 season: 22-6 vs. Kansas State, 20-4 vs. Texas and 23-8 vs. Iowa State. ... Baylor's 6-0 loss Saturday at Kansas was only the Bears' sixth loss in 44 games against KU. It was the Jayhawks' first victory in the series by more than one run. ... Dustin Dickerson has hit safely in 14 consecutive games, a career-long streak. That ties Kansas' Tony Thompson for the second-longest in the Big 12 this season. Baylor's Aaron Miller had the league's longest so far this year, a 17-game streak that ended last weekend. Baylor is the only team to have produced two streaks of at least 13 games this season. Oklahoma's Bryant Hernandez ended his 13-game streak Sunday, while the Sooners' Garrett Buechele has an active 12-game streak. ... Last week, The Pen highlighted Ben Booker's pre-March 17, post-March 17 career splits. Booker is 13-for-22 since March 17 this season, raising his post-Patty's Day career average to .322 (147-for-457). He is closing in on top-10 territory on several Baylor career charts. ... While Hansen has started only five games at shortstop this season, he has seen time at short in 11 games. Hansen is hitting .406 (13-for-32) while at shorstop, including seven of his 11 home runs. Beamer Weems holds the Baylor record for homers by a shortstop in one season; he hit nine as a sophomore in 2007, and all of his 24 career dingers came while playing short. ... Miller is hitless in 10 at bats this season when in the game as a pitcher. ... Raynor Campbell is hitting .333 (10-for-30) in 10 games at third base. He hit .167 (3-for-18) in six games at shortstop and .200 (9-for-45) in 14 games at second base. ... Baylor is being out-hit .263 to .323 in Big 12 games this season. However, 20 of the Bears' 109 conference hits have been home runs. Baylor hit 28 home runs in 27 league games last season. ... Sunday marked the third consecutive season in which Baylor homered at least four times in the Kansas series finale. In 2007, the Bears hit four solo homers at Lawrence in a 6-2 win. Last season, the Bears homered four times in a 17-7, seven-inning win. ... Baylor has six last-at-bat wins this season, three times as many as they had all of last season. That's the most by a Baylor team since the 2005 squad had 12 in 70 games. ... The Pen had the honor of joining Kansas head coach Ritch Price and his lovely wife, Cindy, for dinner Saturday night. Coach Price was an assistant coach for the USA National Team last summer. "Big Time" said he's an avid reader of The Pen. Not sure if it was lip service or not, but it's believable. According to Price, The Pen guaranteed a sweep of the Jayhawks back during the fall. While The Pen has no recollection of such, we'll take Big Time's word for it. Price has definitely brought that program a long way in his six years in Lawrence. Here's wishing the Jayhawks nothing but the best the rest of the way ... unless it hurts the Bears, of course. ... The Pen is convinced the fire alarms were tripped by KU baseball media relations contact Mike Cummings, who is known as quite the prankster. Seriously, Mike. Get a life or else you'll end up like that South Florida fan in the stands at Saturday's game. ... The Pen's pick two weeks ago for the championship game matchup in that orange-colored ball sport? Yep, Michigan State and North Carolina. The Pen watched 2.5 basketball games this season. UNC 83-75. We'll see.
3:45 P.M. FRIDAY, APRIL 3, 2009
The first thing to know about Kansas is that weather will be an issue. Temperatures will be in the mid-50s at best tonight, and there is a 40 percent chance of rain Saturday. Things look even more precarious for Sunday's finale; colder temperatures and higher chances of precipitation more into Northeast Kansas overnight Saturday.
The second thing to know about Kansas is that the Jayhawks are 14-0 at home, including a win over Wichita State and a sweep of then-No. 1 Texas two weeks ago. The days of near-guaranteed wins over Sunflower State teams in the Big 12 are long over.
Shifting gears for a moment before looking further at Kansas, let's look at a schedule update. For those that missed in the Kansas series notes, Baylor's series opener at Texas in early May has been selected for national broadcast on ESPNU. That pushes the game time back to 8 p.m. CDT. However, it should be noted that ESPNU is broadcasting the Liberty at Coastal Carolina game earlier that evening (5 p.m. CDT); therefore, there is a good chance that first pitch could be a little later than 8 p.m. ... Here is a look at other Division I college baseball games on ESPNU this season (all times CDT):
Tonight - UC Irvine at Cal State Fullerton, 9 p.m.
Sunday - Louisville at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Sunday - San Diego at Santa Clara, 5:30 p.m.
May 2 - Delaware State at Bethune-Cookman, 2 p.m.
May 22 - Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton, 9 p.m.
KANSAS (17-10, 3-3)
Head Coach: Ritch Price, seventh season at Kansas
Last Five: 2-3 Last 10: 7-3 Last Game: def. Northern Colorado 15-6 (4/1)
Game 1 Starter: Junior LHP Shaeffer Hall (2-2, 2.27 ERA, 6 G, 6 GS, 39.2 IP, 34 H, 20 R, 10 ER, 6 BB, 27 K, 2 HR, .233 OBA) ... Fastball (85-87), Curve, Change ... First season with KU program after two years at Jefferson County CC ... Ranks eighth in the Big 12 in ERA and sixth in innings ... Tossed a comlete-game, nine-inning no hitter in KU's season opener against Air Force (2/20) ... Also earned victory in Texas series opener, holding Horns to four runs on six hits and one run with five strikeouts over 7.0 innings (3/20) ... Four earned runs against Texas was a season high, the lone time he has allowed more than two earned runs in six starts ... Losses were against Arizona State (3/13) and Texas A&M (3/27) ... Allowed six runs, including five unearned runs, on six hits over 5.0 innings against ASU ... Pitched well in loss at Texas A&M, allowing three runs - two earned - on eight hits and no walks over 6.1 innings .... Took no-decisions at Arkansas (2/25) and vs. Northwestern (3/6).
Game 2 Starter: Sophmore RHP T.J. Walz (2-0, 3.90 ERA, 6 G, 5 GS, 30.0 IP, 29 H, 16 R, 13 ER, 9 BB, 31 K, 3 HR, .250 OBA) ... Fastball (89-93), Slider, Split ... Earned wins against Northwestern (3/6) and Arizona State (3/14) ... Allowed two runs - one earned - on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts over 5.0 innings against Northwestern .... Worked 6.1 innings against Arizona State, allowing two runs - one earned - on six hits and a walk with six strikeouts .... Held Memphis to two runs - one earned - on six hits and no walks with seven strikeouts over 7.0 innings but did not factor into the decision (2/20) ... Tossed 5.1 innings in a no-decision against Texas (3/21); allowed three runs on three hits and three walk with three strikeouts ... Held Texas A&M to four runs on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over 5.1 innings (3/28) ... Also worked 1.0 inning in relief at Arkansas (2/25); allowed three runs on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts ... Saw action in the opener and finale of last sason's series at Baylor; was the first pitcher out of the pen in both games ... Allowed two runs on two hits and a walk with one strikeout over 1.1 innings in the opener ... Surrendered five runs on four hits and three walk with no strikeouts over 2.2 innings in the finale.
Game 3 Starter: Freshman RHP Lee Ridenhour (3-2, 2.79 ERA, 7 G, 6 GS, 38.2 IP, 30 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 10 BB, 25 K, 2 HR, .217 OBA) ... Fastball (87-89), Slider, Change ... Earned victory at Arkansas in first career start (2/24); held Razorbacks to two runs on six hits and three walks with one strikeout over 5.0 innings ... Also posted wins against North Dakota (3/3) and Wichita State (3/11) ... Tossed 8.0 shutout innings on three htis and a walk with five strikeouts against Wichita State ... Suffered losses at San Diego State (3/17) and at Texas A&M (3/29) ... Pitched well against San Diego State, allowing one run on three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts over 7.0 innings ... Start at Texas A&M was shortest start of season; allowed six runs - five earned - on four hits and three walks with no strikeouts over 4.0 innings ... Did not factor in the decision of the Texas series finale (3/22); allowed three runs - two earned - on eight hits and no walks with four strikeouts over 6.2 innings.
Players to Watch: 3B Tony Thompson (.367, 6 HR, 29 RBI) paces the Kansas offense. He has 11 doubles, tied for second in the Big 12. ... C Buck Afenir (.360, 3 HR, 22 RBI) has thrown out five of eight would-be base-stealers. ... Thompson and Afenir are the lone Jayhawks with more than two home runs this season; Kansas has 15 homers in 27 games. ... RHP Paul Smyth (1-4, 5.87 ERA, 6 Sv) is on the National Stopper of the Year Watch List. He is tied for the Big 12 lead in saves.
Tidbits: Kansas ranks eighth in the league in team batting average (.388), second in staff ERA (3.46) and fourth in team fielding percentage (.973). ... Opponents have attempted only 16 stolen bases against the Jayhawks this season and been successful only nine times, the lowest totals in the Big 12. ... This is Kansas' third consecutive series against a nationally ranked opponent (No. 1 Texas, No. 15 Texas A&M). The Jayhawks are 5-6 against ranked opponents. ... Kansas is 32-7 at home since the start of the 2008 season.
Baylor has not lost a series at Kansas since dropping two of three at Lawrence in 1997. That is the only Big 12 series win to KU's ledger against Baylor. ... Baylor is 31-5 against Kansas in the Big 12 era. All five losses were one-run defeats. ... Kansas head coach Ritch Price was an assistant coach for the 2008 USA Baseball National Team, which featured Baylor's Kendal Volz.