Jan. 25, 2013
WACO, Texas -
Baylor baseball began its 2013 spring practice schedule on Friday afternoon at Baylor Ballpark, one day after being tabbed No. 23 in the USA Today
preseason coaches' poll. The Bears will spend the next three weeks preparing for their season opener on Feb. 15 at UC Irvine.
"It honestly doesn't feel like the first day," 19th-year head coach Steve Smith said. "We've been doing some stuff (individual workouts). And, honestly, we went so late in the fall, we haven't had that big of a break. But it is exciting to be out here; the weather's great. We've got as fine a playing surface as you can have, and the guys are all excited to get out here and get started."
Baylor returns 20 letterwinners from a team that went 49-17 and claimed the Big 12 Championship on its way to a Waco Super Regional berth in 2012. The Bears finished last season ranked No. 9 or 10 in all four major national polls.
Despite returning more than half of last season's team, the Bears have plenty of holes to fill with the departures of seven All-Big 12 players, including four All-Americans and all three starting pitchers from their weekend rotation.
Baylor returns three first-team All-Big 12 selections from a season ago in RHP Max Garner, 2B Lawton Langford and DH Nathan Orf - the 2012 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. The Bears also return second-team All-Big 12 3B Cal Towey, along with Big 12 All-Freshman team honorees RHP Ryan Smith and OF Adam Toth.
Smith said if the season started today the weekend pitching rotation would include a pair of pitchers who began last season in the rotation - Garner and LHP Brad Kuntz. The Bears also have experienced arms with the returns of RHPs Dillon Newman, Austin Stone, Kolt Browder and Trae Davis, as well as LHP Crayton Bare. Stone was the winning pitcher in the 2012 Waco Regional championship game after starting the game with 5.1 no-hit innings.
Baylor's five returning position starters are Towey, Orf, Langford, Jake Miller, and Toth. The Bears also return sophomore outfielder Logan Brown, who made 17 starts as a freshman, and senior infielder Steve DalPorto.
The Bears will need to replace 2012 Big 12 Player of the Year Josh Ludy, who started behind the plate in 62 of 66 games a season ago. Baylor's only experienced returning catcher is junior Nate Goodwin, but the Bears have a trio of freshmen catchers on the roster, including Matt Menard, Joe Sabatini and Jimmy Landes.
Baylor opens the 2013 season with a three-game series at UC Irvine on Feb. 15-17 - Baylor took both games when the teams met at Baylor Ballpark last season. The Bears' home opener is Feb. 19 against Texas State, and BU hosts UCLA for a three-game series Feb. 22-24.
2013 USA Today Preseason Coaches' Poll
4. North Carolina
5. South Carolina
9. Florida State
11. North Carolina State
14. Oregon State
t18. Mississippi State
t18. San Diego
20. Arizona State
21. Georgia Tech
22. Cal State Fullerton
24. Texas A&M