Before the start of each season, Bears head coach Steve Rodriguez privately considers the potential of that year’s squad. As he approached the start of the 2017 season, his second at the helm of the Baylor baseball program, he again evaluated how far he thought the team could go.
“I always have my own private, personal predictions in regard to what I hope for as a team,” Rodriguez said. “Needless to say, this team exceeded those expectations.”
The Bears made positive strides in 2017, earning the program’s first postseason berth since 2012 and finishing with a 34-23 record—a 10-win improvement over 2016. Picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll, the Bears finished fifth and were the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Houston Regional.
Baylor’s season came to an end at the Houston Regional with losses to Texas A&M and the University of Houston. While those season-ending losses stung, the coach said the experience of playing in a regional was one to build on for the team’s returning players.
“It’s always important to play in the postseason,” Rodriguez said. “In the long-term outlook, I’m unbelievably proud of how our guys competed, got better, learned and became better baseball players this season. I can’t coach the experience that these young guys got, and hopefully next year we can use it.”
Others outside the program took note of the team’s individual and collective improvement, as the Bears were honored with a league-high 15 end-of-year Big 12 honors.
Rodriguez was named Big 12 Coach the Year by the league’s coaches, marking the 11th time a Baylor coach has earned conference coach of the year honors, dating back to the Southwest Conference era.
Junior pitcher Montana Parsons was named Big 12 Co-Newcomer of the Year and was one of 13 players named to all-conference teams, and sophomore outfielder Richard Cunningham earned Big 12 Scholar-Athlete of the year for baseball. In the classroom, the Bears garnered a program-record 15 Academic All-Big 12 awards. In the league’s 21 year-history, the Bears have earned 143 academic All-Big 12 honors, 47 more than any other program.