BAYLOR 10, TEXAS SOUTHERN 1: Bears blast Southern, improve to 4-0 overall

by dentonramsey

BAYLOR 10, TEXAS SOUTHERN 1: Bears blast Southern, improve to 4-0 overall

By Denton Ramsey, NCAA Sportswriter/Big 12 Fans Baylor Correspondent

 

WACO, Texas – The Bears baseball team remains undefeated after a 10-1 victory over Texas Southern University (TSU) on Tuesday evening, Feb. 26 at Baylor Ballpark.

Tuesday’s offensive outburst gives Baylor (4-0) an eight-game winning streak over Texas Southern (1-3), as the Bears have now defeated Southern in every mound match-up thus far – starting with the team’s first showdown on April 28, 2004 in Waco, a 10-3 BU victory over TSU.

“This one was pretty sharp; that was a goal, to try to play well, and that started on the mound with our guys throwing strikes,” Baylor Head Coach Steve Smith said. “Most of our free bases that we had given up over the weekend had to do with the mound – either bases on balls, hit batters or a wild pitch here and there.

“Wade [Mackey] only walked two guys, one of the guys that reached by error we picked off, and so they only got two or three free bases tonight, and we had over 20.  From that standpoint, we played the game itself pretty well.”

Mackey (1-0), the Bears starting pitcher against Southern, tossed 5.2 solid innings for Baylor – allowing a mere three hits and three walks, while surrendering no runs and striking out four, through 22 batters faced.

“Given what I asked him [Mackey] to do, which was basically to throw a lot of fastballs right at guys, he did a good job,” Smith said. “They [Texas Southern] throw you a soft left-hander, with the wind blowing in your face, and that is a recipe for a lot of fly ball outs. The guys knew that going in, and they did a good job of trying to stay on top of the ball and stay away from that.

“We hit the ball square more often than not, and we hit some balls really well. The ball [Ben] Booker hit that they caught against the fence, I really thought that ball was going out even with the wind. I don’t know that I’ve seen him hit a ball that well in a game.”

Wind or no wind, Mackey makes his way to the mound with the same mindset every time out – painting the corners of the zone while minimizing bases on balls.

“The ball’s never going to go anywhere when the wind is blowing like that, so it’s not a bad thing,” Mackey said. “It’s something that you know in the back of your mind; if the ball gets up it’s probably not going to go out. As far as pitching, it doesn’t really change my thinking.

“[My approach is] pretty much the same as last year; I just try to go out there and get comfortable. I want to throw strikes; I really don’t like walking people.”

In addition to the Bears beginning their 2008 campaign with an unscathed mark while being ranked as high as No. 13 by Baseball America, Baylor’s Kendal Volz was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week on Monday, Feb. 25.

“He’s a lot more comfortable, and his body language on the mound looks a ton more confident,” Smith said. “His command of his stuff is better. He just pounded the strike zone the other day with three pitches, and his velocity was 92-96 the whole time he was out there. He’s just continuing to get better as he matures, as any player will do with the more opportunities they get.”

Junior shortstop Beemer Weems also had a breakout game for the Bears against Southern, garnering his first multi-hit game of the season while driving in a run.

“My swing’s felt good all year,” Weems said. “It’s just been my timing, and I felt like my timing kind of kicked in today – it felt good to get a couple of hits.”

Weems and the Bears made the necessary adjusts in Tuesday’s windy showdown with Southern, taking a 3-0 lead after three innings of play and never looking back.

“You kind of have to [adjust to weather conditions],” Weems said. “If you hit the ball in the air with the wind blowing in like that, they’re just going to catch it, so you really try to get on top of the ball and hit hard ground balls and line drives. That’s your best bet at getting on [base].”

Pitching, as always, was also a key to picking up another victory on the diamond.

“Wade [Mackey] came out there and threw strikes and did really well, and for the most part the defense did really well,” Weems said. “We [the Baylor offense] kept the ball out of the air, so it was a pretty good turnout today.”

The Baylor lineup also packed on a number of runs after picking up three consecutive one-run victories to begin the season, as the Bears capitalized with 10 runs on 10 hits against Southern en route to a nine-run W.

“For the conditions, we did a pretty good job of keeping the ball out of the air and trying to hit it on the ground to make them make plays,” junior right fielder Adam Hornung, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, said. “We hit a few balls well too; [Ben] Booker hit that ball to the wall that would probably have gone out any other day. We did a good job of laying-off of a lot of pitches, and we didn’t strike out much, so that was a plus.

“It [playing in wintry weather conditions] is something you go through each year. Starting in February, you’re going to play in some cold weather. The cold weather’s not bad, but [playing in the] wind and cold is pretty rough.”

Whether cool weather arrives or not, the Bears aim to keep their hot streak alive this weekend when they host the QTI Baylor Classic – beginning on Friday, Feb. 29 and concluding on Sunday, March 2.

“The thing that’s different about this weekend is that everybody we play will have played [this season],” Smith said. “We’re not going to have the advantage that we had against Purdue. We clearly had an advantage in that series defensively because they hadn’t even been outside.”

The upcoming Baylor baseball tourney includes a trio of home games against Illinois, Illinois-Chicago and Stephen F. Austin (SFA).

“We won’t walk into this weekend with that kind of advantage because everybody’s had a chance to be outside and play some games,” Smith said.

Baylor’s QTI tourney begins on Friday, Feb. 29 at 6:30 p.m. CT against Illinois, followed by a Saturday, March 1 match-up at 6:30 p.m. CT with Illinois-Chicago, and wraps up on Sunday, March 2 at 3 p.m. CT against SFA.

Other tournament showdowns include Illinois-Chicago and SFA playing on Friday at 2 p.m. CT, Illinois facing SFA on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT, and Illinois and Illinois-Chicago facing off on Sunday at 11 a.m. CT.

“We’ve played in different tournaments over the years, and it’s actually kind of fun playing three different teams in three days,” Weems said. “It should be a lot of fun seeing new faces every day, so we’re looking forward to it.”

 

Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at denton.ramsey@gmail.com

 

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