Baylor baseball wins Big 12 tournament, headed to Stanford for NCAA Regional
There may be no hotter team in all of college baseball than the Baylor Bears. Over their last 25 games — essentially, the second half of the season — they’ve gone 22-3, including a furious last week that saw them claim their first ever Big 12 tournament title at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championships in Oklahoma City.
After hoisting the Big 12 trophy Sunday, head coach Steve Rodriguez’s team learned Monday that it is headed to the West Coast this weekend to begin the NCAA tournament. The Bears are the No. 2 seed in the Stanford Regional in Palo Alto, Calif. There, they’ll take on a tradition-rich Cal State-Fullerton ball club in the regional’s opening game on Friday afternoon. Host team Stanford — the No. 2 overall national seed — will play Horizon League tournament champions Wright State Friday evening in the regional’s other opening game.
By winning the Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City, Baylor received the conference’s automatic bid to the tournament, but most experts already had the Bears comfortably in the tournament following the best stretch of baseball the program has seen since the 2012 Bears won 24 straight games and a Big 12 regular season title. After struggling out of the gate to a 3-9 record in Big 12 play, the Bears won 10 of their last 12 conference games to finish fifth in the conference. In Oklahoma City, they swept through all four games, including a dramatic extra-inning victory over TCU that ended on a walk-off hit by sophomore catcher Shea Langeliers to win the championship.
From the season’s opening game, when sophomore pitcher Cody Bradford allowed just one hit in a win over HBU, the Baylor pitching staff has been ranked among the nation’s best. Bradford was named Big 12 Pitcher of the Year last week — the first time a Baylor pitcher has been so honored. The Bears’ starters have been backed by a dominant bullpen that helped Baylor record the best ERA in the conference. At the plate, the Bears feature a productive lineup led by junior Richard Cunningham (a team-best .344 batting average) and sophomores Davis Wendzel (45 RBI) and Shea Langeliers (10 home runs).
In addition to recognition for their on-field success (a league-high 13 Bears were recognized on the all-conference team), the Bears were also once again the league’s best in the classroom. Baylor baseball placed a league-high 17 players on the Academic All-Big 12 team — a program record.
The Bears enter the postseason with a 36-19 record and a reputation, according to expert Kendall Rogers from D1Baseball.com, as a team no one wants to see in their regional. They open tournament play against Cal State-Fullerton Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. CT.; if you can’t make it to Palo Alto, the game will be televised on ESPN3.
Sic ’em, Bears!