Baylor baseball headed west after earning third straight NCAA tournament berth
Shortly after the 2019 season began, Baylor baseball lost ace Cody Bradford — the defending Big 12 pitcher of the year — to a season-ending injury. The Bears’ No. 2 starting pitcher, Hayden Kettler, was out for several weeks fighting shoulder soreness. Add in the fact that four of Baylor’s top six hitters — outfielder Cole Haring, catcher Shea Langeliers, designated hitter Andy Thomas and third baseball Davis Wendzel — also missed significant time with a variety of injuries, and you might have expected this to be a down year for the Bears.
Instead, head coach Steve Rodriguez’ team just kept rolling along, finishing second in the Big 12, staking out a regular spot in the top 25, and earning the program’s third-straight NCAA tournament selection.
Baylor is headed west this weekend as the No. 2 seed in the Los Angeles regional, where they’ll take on third-seeded Loyola Marymount in the regional opener on Friday (3 p.m. CT, ESPN3). No. 1 UCLA — also the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed — and No. 4 Omaha round out the Los Angeles field.
The Bears earned their spot in the tournament after finishing the regular season with a 33-15 record, going 14-8 in the Big 12 and finishing just a game behind the NCAA tournament No. 8 overall seed, Texas Tech. Wendzel earned Co-Big 12 Player of the Year honors, becoming the fifth player in program history to earn the award. He was joined on the all-Big 12 first team by Langeliers, Thomas, shortstop Nick Loftin, outfielder Richard Cunningham, and relief pitcher Kyle Hill. Those six all-Big 12 first team selections led the league. Personifying the “Champions for Life” motto, Baylor also paced the Big 12 in Academic All-Big 12 selections with 17.
Now, the Bears take the next step in the postseason. It’s their third-straight NCAA tournament berth in just their fourth year under Rodriguez, who spent much of the last 25 years in Southern California. Along with pitching coach Jon Strauss and six Los Angeles or San Diego natives on the roster, it’s a homecoming of sorts — promising some favorable Baylor crowds on the road — but the Bears, as they have all year, will be focused on business at hand, starting with a 3 p.m. first pitch on Friday.
Sic ’em, Baylor baseball!