Jan. 28, 2011
WACO, Texas - Baylor's 16th-ranked baseball team held its first spring practice on a sunny, 75-degree afternoon Friday at Baylor Ballpark. It was quite a contrast to last season when the Bears escaped the freezing weather by holding their first spring practice inside the Jay and Jenny Allison Indoor Football Practice Facility.
"We always expect tough days and cold weather right now, but this is a blessing today," said head coach Steve Smith during pre-practice interviews.
This season's roster includes 13 newcomers looking to replace the 10 departed letterwinners from a 2010 team that went 36-24 and finished as the runner-up in the NCAA Fort Worth Regional. The Bears return eight starting position players and lose only four pitchers from the 2010 roster.
"We've got a pretty good nucleus of returning players, but we do have a lot of innings to replace that we lost to graduation or the draft and I'm interested to see how we're going to do that," Smith said.
Baylor's biggest question entering 2011 is who will step in for the departed pitchers Willie Kempf, Shawn Tolleson and Craig Fritsch, who combined to pitch 231.0 out of 535.1 innings a season ago. All three were selected in the 2010 MLB Draft and went on to pitch professionally over the summer.
Returning to anchor the rotation is junior RHP Logan Verrett (5-3, 3.28 ERA, 97 K). Verrett could be joined in the weekend rotation by any combination of senior RHP Jon Ringenberg (5-0, 3.69, 25), junior RHP Trent Blank (2-1, 5.48, 14) or sophomore LHP Josh Turley (4-0, 4.41, 33).
Junior RHP Brooks Pinckard (2-4, 2.45, 12 saves) returns after setting Baylor's sophomore saves record last year. He was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 18th round of the MLB Draft, but turned down a professional contract to continue his collegiate career. Sophomore RHP Kolt Browder (4-2, 4.88, 36), a former walk-on shortstop, joins Pinckard to provide experience in the bullpen.
The Bears return plenty of experience across the diamond. Senior Chris Slater (.341 3 HR, 20 RBI), junior Pinckard (.305, 2, 28) and sophomores Logan Vick (.329, 10, 27) and Cal Towey (.314, 3, 20) all return after seeing time as starters in the outfield, while senior Landis Ware (.275, 6, 38) and sophomores Max Muncy (.300, 11, 53) and Jake Miller (.238, 2, 12) return after starting on the infield.
Junior Joey Hainsfurther (.339, 2, 48), who earned All-Big 12 honors as a third baseman in 2010, is expected to move behind the plate this year, where he'll share catching duties with junior Josh Ludy (.322, 0, 8). Hainsfurther and Ludy are both candidates to fill the designated hitter role when they're not catching, along with junior Dan Evatt (.210, 2, 10).
Baylor opens the 2011 season when it hosts the QTI Powers Opening Weekend Classic against Oral Roberts on Feb. 18-20 at Baylor Ballpark. For tickets, call the Baylor Athletics Ticket Office at 254-710-1000 or order online at www.BaylorBears.com.