Previewing the Baylor Weekend Series

Another weekend, another tough Big 12 contest for the Texas Longhorns. This weekend's series against the Baylor Bears marks Texas' ninth, tenth and eleventh consecutive games against top-33 RPI competition, according to Despite a 26-17 record and six losses in their last seven games, Baylor ranks 18th in that pseudo-RPI.

The Bears have not played good baseball lately. Last week, the club dropped midweek contests to Sam Houston State and Texas State before being swept at home by the Oklahoma Sooners. Baylor was outscored 27-14 in the series. They turned around with an 8-7 victory over UTSA on Wednesday evening.

At the same time, it is hard to tell where the Longhorns stand. Two weeks ago, Texas swept the Sooners at home rather easily. After that, they went 0-3-1 in the week, losing an ugly game to Rice and going 0-2-1 against Kansas State. However, Texas didn't play bad baseball against the Wildcats -- they were simply beaten.

With a 10-10 Big 12 record, Baylor is likely out of the conference race. Ever since the Bears swept all three games from Texas in 2005, the Longhorns have gone 11-1 against their in-state rivals. But this Baylor team is extremely talented, they play two games in Waco, and they have one of the league's most powerful offenses.

Texas Pitching

Friday: Chance Ruffin, So., RHP (6-2, 2.64 ERA...75.0 IP, 64 H, 15 BB, 68 K)
Saturday: Cole Green, So., RHP (3-1, 2.66 ERA...61.0 IP, 55 H, 15 BB, 37 K)
Sunday: Taylor Jungmann, Fr., RHP (4-3, 1.75 ERA...46.1 IP, 31 H, 20 BB, 52 K)

No surprises on Friday or Saturday. Ruffin and Green will get the nod on those two days, and both pitchers threw well against Kansas State last weekend, allowing two runs in 6.1 innings.

The change will come on Sunday. Coaches Augie Garrido and Skip Johnson have decided to go with freshman right-hander Taylor Jungmann in game three.

While Brandon Workman may have more raw talent than any pitcher on the staff, he has been inconsistent of late. Workman has been leaving both his fastball and breaking ball up. His fastball started out just being up in the strike zone, but in his last few outings, he's missed out of the strike zone, leading to a number of walks. Workman has pitched four innings or fewer in each of his last five weekend starts.

A move to the bullpen should benefit Workman even if he isn't able to harness is breaking ball. The hard-throwing sophomore can dial his fastball into the mid-90s more consistently as a reliever, making it a little more acceptable to throw fastballs up in the zone.

Jungmann will make his first start since he tossed six innings against Penn State on February 28. The tall freshman has been excellent as Texas' long reliever, posting a 2.25 ERA in 28 innings in Big 12 play. Workman, on the other hand, has a 5.34 ERA in 30.1 Big 12 innings.

Baylor Pitching

Friday: Kendal Volz, Jr., RHP (3-4, 3.57 ERA...68.0 IP, 62 H, 29 BB, 62 K)
Saturday: Aaron Miller, Jr., LHP (3-2, 3.83 ERA...42.1 IP, 37 H, 17 BB, 55 K)
Sunday: TBA

Entering the season, Baylor looked to have one of the nation's best pitching staffs. Their projected weekend rotation of Volz, Shawn Tolleson, and Craig Fritsch was loaded with elite talents that Major League organizations were salivating over.

Now, Volz is the only one left standing, and even he has been a slight disappointment.

Volz made himself known when he overpowered hitters with Team USA last summer, but things haven't been so easy this year. He hasn't gotten much run support, his fastball velocity has dipped at times, and he's been unable to command his normally plus breaking ball. With that said, Volz has pitched better recently, going at least seven innings in each of his last three starts.

Miller wasn't expected to contribute much on the mound this season. He led the Bears in home runs last year and that's where the focus was supposed to stay. But after injuries and disappointing performances, Bears coach Steve Smith inserted Miller into the weekend rotation.

The left-hander has been solid this year, showing off a low-90s fastball and the ability to consistently rack up strikeouts. However, he hasn't pitched as well in two starts since going into the weekend rotation, and the Bears are 0-2 in those contests.

Freshman Logan Verrett appears to have re-settled into the team's closer role. Verrett began the season as Baylor's best pitcher and one of the top hurlers in the league, but he has hit a wall. The Corpus Christi native has an 8.44 ERA in his last 16 innings, spanning seven appearances.

Tolleson (0-1, 4.54 ERA) and Fritsch (2-5, 6.87 ERA) both began the year in the weekend rotation, but Tolleson's struggles and Fritsch's inconsistencies eventually pushed both back into a bullpen role.

Overall, the talented pitching staff has hobbled to a 4.99 team earned-run average this season. That number climbs to 5.64 in Big 12 contests. Only lefty Aaron Miller (3.94 ERA) has an sub-four earned-run average in league play.

Texas Offense

C: Cameron Rupp, So. (.264, 4 HR, 26 RBI)
1B: Brandon Belt, Jr. (.338, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 7/10 SB)
2B: Travis Tucker, Sr. (.315, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 8/10 SB)
SS: Brandon Loy, Fr. (.301, 0 HR, 16 RBI)
3B: Michael Torres, Sr. (.303, 1 HR, 18 RBI, 9/10 SB)
LF: Tant Shepherd, So. (.263, 2 HR, 18 RBI)
CF: Connor Rowe, So. (.255, 4 HR, 21 RBI)
RF: Kevin Keyes, So. (.312, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 7/10 SB)
DH: Preston Clark, Sr. (.237, 0 HR, 12 RBI) or Russell Moldenhauer, Jr. (.245, 0 HR, 7 RBI) or Kevin Lusson, Fr. (.500, 0 HR, 5 RBI)

The last week has been business as usual for the Longhorns offense. They appear to be settling in as a team that will hit between .280 and .290 on the season. Cameron Rupp and Tant Shepherd are stuck in perhaps their worst slumps of the season, but Brandon Loy, Connor Rowe, and Kevin Lusson have helped pick up the slack.

Loy has been particularly impressive of late. The freshman shortstop is hitting .373 in his last 17 games, and his averaged has climbed above .300 during his 10-for-15 stretch over the last three games.

Perhaps more importantly, Loy is one of just two players to start every conference game this season. He has yet to commit an error at shortstop and has just two on the entire season. Not bad for a freshman.

Another freshman, Kevin Lusson, has provided a huge boost for the Texas offense. The third baseman/DH is displaying outstanding patience and he has refused to swing at anything out of the strike zone. At 8-for-16, Lusson is consistently driving the ball, and he has seven walks versus no strikeouts this year. With the struggles of Clark and Moldenhauer this season, Lusson has a chance to secure the DH spot down the stretch.

Baylor Offense

C: Gregg Glime, Jr. (.200, 1 HR, 11 RBI)
1B: Dan Evatt, Fr. (.322, 6 HR, 28 RBI)
2B: Landis Ware, So. (.280, 1 HR, 10 RBI)
SS: Shaver Hansen, Jr. (.349, 15 HR, 47 RBI)
3B: Raynor Campbell, Jr. (.239, 8 HR, 26 RBI)
LF: Ben Booker, Sr. (.313, 1 HR, 10 RBI)
CF: Brooks Pinckard, Fr. (.255, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 8/10 SB)
RF: Aaron Miller, Jr. (.352, 10 HR, 41 RBI)
DH: Dustin Dickerson, Jr. (.368, 9 HR, 28 RBI)

Five Baylor sluggers have at least eight home runs this season, giving them maybe the most powerful offense in the Big 12. They are an aggressive offense that doesn't walk a lot and strikes out in bunches, but they can also put runs on the board in a hurry.

The bats haven't been quite as impressive in conference games, though. Texas has a better team batting average (.282) than the Bears (.272) along with a better on-base percentage (.363 to .349). Baylor gets the easy edge in power, outslugging Texas by nearly 80 points.

Shortstop Shaver Hansen is hitting .364 with nine home runs in 20 Big 12 games this season. While they do have a handful of impressive performers, a few major contributors (such as Brooks Pinckard and Gregg Glime) are hitting under .200 since conference play began.

Horns Digest Top Stories