Jan. 27, 2012
WACO, Texas - Baylor baseball held its first spring practice on a picture-perfect, 65-degree afternoon Friday at Baylor Ballpark. The Bears will spend the next three weeks preparing for the Feb. 17 season opener against Oral Roberts.
"With the way last season ended, this has more of a feel that it is the practice the next day after that final game," head coach Steve Smith said. "We have so many of those guys back that experienced that painful end. That's not a loss that you put aside very easily. We're now getting close to the opportunity to go out and play and maybe begin to put that one aside."
For the second straight season, Baylor returns eight position starters among 20 returning letterwinners. The Bears lost only five letterwinners from last season's team that finished 31-28 and advanced to the championship round of the NCAA Houston Regional. Two of those five were All-Big 12 starting pitchers Logan Verrett and Brooks Pinckard, so the Bears will have to fill two holes in their pitching rotation.
Both Verrett (third round) and Pinckard (10th round) departed after being selected in the MLB Draft along with teammate Landis Ware (44th round). Baylor also lost seniors Chris Slater and Jon Ringenberg.
Returning to anchor the weekend rotation is junior southpaw Josh Turley (4-5, 3.39 ERA in 2011). Last year's closer Max Garner (2-4, 3.12, 8 saves) is a candidate to join Turley in the pitching rotation along with sophomore Brad Kuntz (0-1, 4.12), senior Tyler Bremer (2-2, 7.80) and freshmen Austin Stone and Michael Howard.
Also returning to provide experience on the mound are Kolt Browder (0-1, 3.86), Trent Blank (5-2, 4.88), Trae Davis (3-1, 6.75), Crayton Bare (0-1, 4.91) and Dillon Newman (1-1, 3.29).
The Bears return plenty of experience in the field. All-Big 12 first baseman Max Muncy (.322, 9 HR, 44 RBI) returns after leading the Bears in all three Triple Crown categories as a sophomore last season, and 2010 Freshman All-American Logan Vick (.213, 2, 18) will likely start in center field.
Jake Miller (.299, 3, 27) is expected to move to shortstop after starting 50 games at third base last season, while Cal Towey (.244, 4, 15) will likely move from outfield to third base. Steve DalPorto (.222, 0, 13) returns after starting 47 games at second base last season.
Seniors Josh Ludy (.278, 3, 34) and Joey Hainsfurther (.270, 0, 17) return behind the plate. They'll be joined by 2009 Freshman All-American Nathan Orf, who has two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out last season to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements.
Dan Evatt (.220, 8, 23) returns to the outfield after finishing second in the Big 12 with six home runs in league play a season ago. Three freshmen - Adam Toth, Logan Brown and Howard - are also expected to compete for starting roles in the outfield.
Baylor opens the 2012 season when it hosts Oral Roberts Feb. 17-19 at Baylor Ballpark. Baylor is running a season ticket special through Sunday in which fans can purchase adult season tickets for $57 and youth (age 2-17) season tickets for $25. For ticket information, call the Baylor Athletics Ticket Office at 254-710-1000 or order online at www.BaylorBears.com.