In 2017, the Baylor Bears took very real steps forward in year two of the Steve Rodriguez era.
They got off to a scalding start to the season, highlighted by a series sweep of South Alabama, a 2-1 weekend at the tournament at Minute Maid Park, and a series win against eventual regional host Houston. They continued to play well even as Big 12 play got underway, and when it was all said and done, they had done enough to get into the program’s first regional since 2012, their resume no doubt buoyed by those quality wins early in the season.
In 2018, they’ll face a similarly stout early-season schedule.
They get things started with a three-game home series against Purdue. While that’s not necessarily a blockbuster series on a national scale, Purdue is an improving program, as we’ve written about and podcasted about before. That’s not going to be a series through which the Bears can sleepwalk.
After a midweek tilt with the always-tough Dallas Baptist Patriots, Baylor will travel out near Rodriguez’s old stomping grounds and take on UCLA on the road. The young Bruins snuck into a regional last season, and will certainly be looking to take the next step in their collective development in 2018.
Then, after heading back home for a midweek game against Texas State, Baylor will travel to Frisco, Texas, to take part in the Frisco College Classic, where they will face off against a Cal team featuring a ton of young, exciting talent, a Texas A&M team that was in Omaha last season, and Louisiana Tech, a program that was in a regional two years ago and went 36-20 last season.
Because the Big 12 has an odd number of teams in baseball, each team has a non-conference weekend during the middle of the season. During their off week from conference, Baylor will take on Memphis. That already wouldn’t be the easiest weekend, but it’a also on the road.
The formula is there for the Bears. Even in a major conference, it’s unwise to bank on your conference games being good enough to do you favors in the RPI and in building your postseason resume. With a non-conference slate like this, and with many of the toughest games either on the road or at neutral sites, Baylor certainly isn’t taking any chances, and it sets them up well for success. If they can win in a similar fashion to the way they won early and often in 2017, they’ll be playing June baseball again in 2018.