Two narrow losses to Arkansas in the NCAA Super Regional last weekend kept Baylor baseball from returning to Omaha, but a look back at the 2012 season shows that the year deserves to be remembered among the best in program history. In the past five months, Baylor baseball:
- Claimed its third Big 12 championship;
- Finished with 49 wins, one shy of the program record;
- Won a school-record 24 straight games;
- Swept Big 12 Player, Newcomer and Coach of the Year honors;
- Featured four Louisville Slugger All-Americans, the most ever by a Big 12 team;
- Reached No. 1 in the nation for the first time;
- Earned its 13th NCAA tournament appearance in the last 15 years;
- Hosted an NCAA Regional and Super Regional;
- Set program records for total and average attendance;
- And had six players selected in the 2012 MLB draft.
The Bears spent two weeks at No. 1 in the country and will likely finish in the top 10 nationally for just the fifth time ever. Baylor clinched the Big 12 regular season title on May 5, the earliest by any team in league history, and the Bears’ 20-4 conference record was the second-best in Big 12 history.
Steve Smith, BSED ’86, earned his second Big 12 Coach of the Year honor from his peers and set a Baylor record for career wins. A school-record 11 players were named All-Big 12 by the league’s coaches, including seven first-team honorees, led by Big 12 Player of the Year Josh Ludy and Newcomer of the Year Nathan Orf.
Starting pitcher Josh Turley was one of 30 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award (baseball’s Heisman), while two other Bears, Ludy and starter Trent Blank, were semifinalists for another national player of the year award, the Dick Howser Trophy. Ludy was also named a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award (recognizing the nation’s top catcher), and reliever Kolt Browder earned Academic All-America recognition, the Bears’ fourth in four years.
For a team that was picked to finish fourth in the Big 12 and was unranked to begin the season, I’d call that a pretty good year.
Sic ’em, Baylor baseball!