Fall Report: BaylorFall Report
Steve Rodriguez and Baylor have restored order in Waco.
From the late 1990s through 2012, the Bears experienced a wealth of success. They made their third College World Series appearance in 2005 and made four-straight NCAA tournament appearances from 2009-12, only to go on an extended postseason hiatus.
Rodriguez was hired by Baylor to put the program on the right track for the long term. He made the NCAA postseason two years ago with a trip to the Houston Regional before equaling that accomplishment last season with a trip to the Stanford Regional.
BU is still looking for its first trip to the NCAA Super Regional round since 2012, but the program is now rolling and there are enough key pieces back this season to take yet another big step forward in 2019.
“I think one of the biggest things you’ll notice about this team is that we have a lot of key veteran pieces back from last year’s team. That’s important,” Rodriguez said. “The biggest thing for this team as we look ahead to the spring is just making sure we stay healthy and don’t try to overextend ourselves.
“I think we have a chance to be pretty good,” he continued. “I think if this group can avoid the outside static and influences, I think this team has a chance to do something pretty special.”
One look at Baylor’s returning cogs confirms Rodriguez’s excitement.
BU returns almost its entire offensive lineup from last season. All-American catcher Shea Langeliers is clearly the headliner of this group, while Davis Wendzel, who could play two positions in the spring, is another consistent and big-time contributor. Electric Nick Loftin and others also are back in the mix.
Baylor also is in solid shape from a pitching standpoint.
The Bears welcome back junior lefthander Cody Bradford. Bradford put together a strong sophomore campaign and a solid summer with Team USA. Though he only made a few appearances this fall, the talented lefty is expected to have a big-time 2019 campaign.
Hayden Kettler also had a strong fall, while the Bears are excited about lefty Tyler Thomas, who had a strong fall and took a sizable step forward.
The bullpen has some uncertainty entering ’19 with the departures of Troy Montemayor, Drew Robertson and others. However, the Bears have plenty of talented options in the mix to replace those two and others.
Without further ado, let’s break down Baylor’s fall:
THE STARTING ROTATION
The Bears might not be a flawless product at this point — who is? But the weekend rotation is certainly in great shape with the return of lefthander Cody Bradford. Bradford shined at times as a freshman two seasons ago, but his fastball was merely just a mid-to-upper 80s offering. That took a jump this past season, as Bradford earned Big 12 Pitcher of the Year honors while also showing increased fastball velocity.
Well, Bradford is ready to take yet another big step forward. Though the lefty only threw four innings this fall after a heavy spring and summer workload, Rodriguez and the Bears liked what they saw. He was up to 94 with the fastball and the slider and his secondary arsenal was crisper.
“We really wanted to give him some time off. He didn’t need to prove anything to us this fall, so the fall was more about him maintaining his strength and such,” Rodriguez said. “When he pitched for us, he felt pretty good. The off-speed pitches looked good this fall and I feel like Coach [Jon] Strauss has done a great job with him. They basically go look at the numbers at our pitching lab and then devise a plan of attack from there. They’re both doing a terrific job of refining everything about him.”