Previewing Baylor and the rest of the Houston regional


The Golden Bears open up tomorrow with their regional baseball play with a game against the Baylor Bears. They worked hard to get this far, and their reward is postseason play. The Houston regional is certainly not a juggernaut regional; what players will the Bears have to get through to advance to super regionals?

The Bears (of Baylor) will likely have their ace Logan Verrett take the ball against our Bears. Verrett has been an integral part of the rotation since his sophomore year, and has stepped up his game to a now 6-5 record with a 2.81 ERA. His FIP indicates his ERA should be nearly a run higher, at 3.59. He doesn’t strike out a ton of batters either; he’s not an ace like pitchers Cal have seen such as Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole. He’ll throw a 91-94 mph fastball, a changeup, and a slider. His off-speed offerings are inconsistent but are still pluses to his repertoire. He can throw all pitches for strikes and doesn’t walk anybody. Max Garner is Baylor’s bullpen ace, with 7 saves and a 2.74 ERA.

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Baylor features several powerful bats that should be pitched to carefully. Leading the way is their top hitter and first basemen, Max Muncy. He leads the team with 9 home runs (5 more than Cal’s top hitter), 43 RBI,  a .329 batting average, a .526 slugging, and .433 on base percentage. If Cal is going to be beat by one player, it’ll be Muncy. Dan Evatt is the prototypical three outcome hitter; he strikes out a lot, he walks a decent amount, and he’s second on the team with 8 home runs despite starting 22 games less than Muncy. Brooks Pinckard is also a terror on the bases, with 32 stolen bases on the year. Josh Ludy is another player to watch as their catcher and #3 hitter.

Rice provides a little intrigue; will they throw their ace Austin Kubitza against Alcorn State, or their weekend starters? The winner of the Bears would love to see the dominating Kubitza go against Alcorn; the freshman strikes out a batter an inning and has a 2.33 ERA. A seventh round pick, he has a fastball that hits 93 and has a devastating slider. It sounds like Kubitza will not be starting the opener against Alcorn State. He’s a legitimate ace and will be tough to hit. The #2 is Matthew Reckling, a fine pitcher in his own right. He throws as hard as Kubitza, but his secondary offerings are far less refined. Still, a 4-1 record and a 3.07 ERA are impressive numbers for a Saturday starter. Tony Cigrani is a dominating closer, with 12 saves and a 1.76 ERA.

Anthony Rendon is the best player in the country. He’s the likely #1 pick in the draft, and with good reason. He has a .523 OBP, product of no one wanting to come near him. When he has been pitched to, he’s hit .327 with a .535 slugging. He has 20 doubles on the year. I don’t care who you are, come into the zone too often against this guy and you will get pounded. Michael Rattertree has as many home runs as Rendon (6), but Rendon still has more power (nothing to be ashamed of). Those two provide major problems in the middle of a lineup. Keenan Cook and JT Chargois set the table in the 1-2 spots of the lineup, as both have OBPs over .375. The Rice lineup is very top-heavy, as the bottom 2 hitters of Derek Hamilton and Michael Fuda are relatively weak hitters.

Alcorn State had a below .500 record, and are easily the worst team in the regional. Their season was a success just by making it here. Their official site isn’t even up to date and provides no statistics. They’re a very speedy team, but they lack pitching or the bats to be a legitimate threat. However, anything can happen in baseball so they cannot be ignored.

Prediction: I see Cal making their way into the final game of the regional, as Alcorn State will likely be two and barbeque and Baylor, while a very tough team, will be matched up against our Bears. In the end, Rice is the best team in the regional and will probably show it by advancing to the super regionals. One thing to remember; baseball is unpredictable. Just because results should happen, doesn’t mean they will. Hopefully that plays in Cal’s favor by taking out Rice and advancing. Go Bears!