By Austin Staton
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Commanding the respect of your teammates and peers both on and off the field is a common goal that most student-athletes hope to maintain. As a two-time captain for the Baylor Bears, senior Willie Kempf is no exception to that rule.
The right-handed pitcher from Castroville, Texas has taken it upon himself to help his club succeed in any way possible.
As the Bears most-seasoned pitcher, Kempf has spent time this season as both a relief pitcher and weekend starter, boasting a club-best 5-2 record with one save and a 4.15 ERA in 52.0 innings of work.
“(Willie) is a team-first guy,” Baylor Head Coach Steve Smith said. “His talents and his abilities afford him the opportunity to fill a lot of roles. He is resilient physically and he bounces back quickly so that he can be the guy that you can go to a couple of times in a weekend.”
Despite splitting time as a starter and relief pitcher, Kempf takes this opportunity as a means to help his club reach postseason play by pitching meaningful innings.
“I enjoy all aspects of pitching,” Kempf said. “I like the routine that you can get into as a starter, but I also like the adrenaline rush that you can get coming out of the bullpen. I just like being out there.”
With a crop of talented freshman like Logan Vick, Tyler Collins, Max Muncy and Cal Towey, Kempf points out that it is a privilege to be called upon to lead this team.
“It has been very humbling to be voted [captain] by your peers two-straight years,” Kempf said. “I remember looking up to the guys that were captains when I was a freshman and sophomore on the team and it really meant a lot that they taught the younger guys on the team with the examples that they set. It means a lot that the younger guys wanted me to do that for them.”
After nearly a two-week layoff due to final exams, Baylor currently sits in eighth place in the Big 12 standings with a 7-12 mark with two conference series remaining, at Texas Tech and a home match versus Oklahoma State.
“The break has been great, especially when you have some guys that have been dealing with some injuries,” Kempf said. “It is great for pitchers, giving their arms a chance to rest. We will be ready to go. This is crunch time at the end of the year for us.”
With the Bears currently in the midst of battling for a slot in postseason play, Kempf’s leadership abilities will undoubtedly be called upon to help a roster that is currently infused with young talent.
“Every team needs someone like that when you get into crunch time and into a big-time situation,” Baylor catcher Gregg Glime said. “Having a guy like that gives the team confidence. Willie is a leader no matter what he does. When you see him running in from the pen, you feel good about your chances no matter what team you are facing.”
Baylor travels to Lubbock this weekend where they have not won a road series against Texas Tech since1998. To win the series, the Bears will, without question, call upon Kempf in whichever role he is needed for the success of the team.
“You feel blessed to have him,” Smith said. “I think the guys respect him because they trust him. They know he is a team guy and they know they can depend on him, not just on the field, but off of the field. Obviously, for a coach, that is a special kind of person to have. He has a very valuable role on the club.”