It has been three years since the Baylor Bears dominated the Big 12 in baseball, and they would like to regain that championship form in the new 2015 season.
The Baylor Bears have won three regular-season championships (2000, 2005, 2012) since becoming members of the Big 12. The Bears have struggled, however, since their last championship season, and have fallen back to the pack and out of contention, finishing seventh and tied for third, respectively in the league standings the last two seasons.
The Bears are off to a 5-2 start to the 2015 season. Perhaps it is a good sign that Baylor swept a doubleheader last Saturday over Kent State. The last time the Bears won a twin bill was in 2012, their championship season.
Baylor lost four of their top four hitter off a 2014 team that finished the year with a sub-.500 record overall (26-31) and went just 8-15 in the conference. Among those losses were starters on the left side of the infield.
Senior outfielder Adam Toth is back again in 2015, and he has asserted himself as a team leader and key contributor in the Bears’ first seven games, with seven runs batted in. Toth started 55 of 57 games a year ago and had a team-best .417 slugging percentage.
The Baylor pitching staff is in fairly good shape coming into the 2015 season, with three of its top four starters returning. Senior right-hander Austin Stone led the starting rotation last season with a 2.28 earned run average in 51.1 innings pitched last season. It is another senior hurler, however, right-hander Joe Kirkland, who has seen the most success early, posting a 2-0 record in three relief appearances in 2015.
The Bears will need to find a replacement for closer Josh Michalec, who posted 21 saves a year ago.
Center-fielder Logan Brown and second-baseman Stephen McLean are off the fast starts in 2015. Brown is hitting .364 and has reached base in seven straight games, and McLean has been on base in six of the Bears’ seven games in 2015. Brown also leads the team with 12 total bases.
The Bears’ nine-game home stand to open the season will be their longest of the season.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles previewing each of the Big 12 baseball teams coming into the 2015 season. Next up are the Kansas Jayhawks.