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Baylor Baseball

Fall Baseball Underway for Mitch Thompson's Bears

September 26, 2023

WACO, Texas – With fall ball starting on Monday, Year Two of the Mitch Thompson era is officially underway for Baylor baseball.

After a tumultuous first season that resulted in a program-record 35 losses and missing the Big 12 Tournament for the first time, Thompson and the Bears are setting their sights on a new year that will hopefully be filled with success.

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Cort Castle will be a veteran leader on next season’s team.

“Last year, everything was brand new,” Thompson said before Monday’s practice. “This year, we have more feel for it and definitely more feel for the guys we have on our roster and the guys we brought in to join the roster. Last year, it was a whole lot of unknowns, and this year, there’s a lot more known, and that’s comforting.”

This offseason, Thompson brought in six transfers, six junior college players and 13 freshmen. After a season in which Thompson inherited a roster that was mostly recruited by Steve Rodriguez and the former staff, this year’s squad is starting to resemble much more of what Thompson has envisioned for his program.

“The [players] are excited,” Thompson said. “They look around, and they can see the additional talent that’s sitting next to them. Their work ethics have picked up a notch too, because they look around and say, ‘Oh, baby, I’ve got to keep going if I’m going to be out there on the field.’ And that’s good. All those things are good.”

As for the differences between now and last fall, the roster currently sits at 51 and will need to be trimmed down to 40 before the season officially starts next February. Last fall, over 60 players were competing for roster spots with a first-year coaching staff that had to treat practice more like an open tryout than a time to craft and develop skills and relationships.

“It’s fewer guys for sure, but I think there’s a ton of talent,” catcher Cort Castle (Jr.) said Monday. “A lot of new guys from a lot of different places. The environment is a little bit different. We all come from different backgrounds, but I like that a lot. You can learn from one another, but I think it’s going to be a super competitive fall. It’s already been that way so far.”

On paper, the offense should be better. Thompson brought in Mason Greer (Sr.), a slugging first baseman from Missouri State, Enzo Apodaca (RJr.), a toolsy former Freshman All-American from Gonzaga, and three everyday starters in Ty Johnson (Jr.) from MCC, Tyriq Kemp (Jr.) from Western Oklahoma CC and Wesley Jordan (Jr.) from Navarro.

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Jared Matheson was Baylor’s best statistical pitcher in 2023 and held a 3.89 ERA across 39.1 innings pitched.

The pitching, however, remains a large question mark, and the team’s success next season will likely be determined by the impact of the incoming and freshmen pitchers.

“We’ve got more arms [this year] for sure,’’ Thompson said. “We’re in different levels of development; some of them are freshmen, and they are going to take a little time. Everything is brand new for them. Some of them are transfers and [are developing]. But I like what I’m seeing from our arms. I think our depth is better. I think our arm strength is better, and I think we’ll perform better.”

As for the returning players, they anticipate the upcoming season to be filled with much more success and look forward to competing this fall.

“I feel really confident in what [Coach Thompson] is doing,” pitcher Jared Matheson (Sr.) said. “There’s not a lot of questions about how the fall is going to go. It’s get here, get to work and we’re going to win games. [There’s] no more feeling our way through it.”

The newcomers, namely Apodaca, a transfer outfielder from Gonzaga and an All-Star this summer in the Cape Cod League, are already enjoying their time at Baylor.

“I love it here so far,” Apodaca said. “It was a perfect fit for me. Coach T is awesome – really approachable, really good guy. He cares about us as a person, not just as a player. I’m super excited to get the year started and play for him as well.” 

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Enzo Apodaca, a transfer outfielder from Gonzaga and an All-Star in the Cape Cod League, will likely be atop the Bears lineup next spring.

Thompson, however, has no plans to play organized scrimmages against other programs this fall. In order to do that, the second-year BU head coach would have to prematurely trim down his roster, which is not something he wants to do.

“We’re in a situation where we have to certify every one of our guys before we play outside competition, and I’m just not going to make those decisions this early,” Thompson said. “We’re going to give everybody a shot to do what they can do and continue to prove to us who they are. We’ll play [against] ourselves and do intrasquads throughout the fall.”

Thompson and the Bears will scrimmage four times per week and practice until the first week of November before breaking for the holidays.

Discussion from...

Fall Baseball Underway for Mitch Thompson's Bears

2,677 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 2 mo ago by MrGolfguy
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Some personal observations:

We look completely different physically. Bigger, stronger
I saw several of our new pitchers reaching the low to mid 90s on the gun. One of frosh LHP hit 95 several times.
I really like our JUCO SS named Ty. From the Netherlands. He is very fast and has a great arm. Potential lead off hitter.

In the intra squad I saw, the pitching looked pretty good from the new comers.
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