Baylor coach Steve Smith acknowledges the cliché, yet even at the risk of betraying his typically engaging and entertaining chatter, goes all one-game-at-a-time in explaining his team's runaway romp to the Big 12 regular season title.
And with reason.
“And I'm going to tell you when that started,” said Smith, The Oklahoman's Big 12 Coach of the Year, “it was last year when Cal walked off the field at Rice.”
As in walk-off win for Cal; walkaway loss for Baylor. One strike away from a regional championship last June at Rice, Baylor lost 9-8 when Cal got a two-run single in a four-run bottom of the ninth.
“When we lost the three-run lead in the ninth inning of a championship game in a regional,” Smith said, “the value of one pitch at a time was never made more clear.”
So Smith and his Bears have ridden that sour memory, grinding out wins — sweeping weekend after weekend in the Big 12 for a while — throughout this season.
Their 18-0 start to league play was the best in the Big 12's 16-year history. And their 24-game overall winning streak set a school record.
“I think the fortunate thing for us this year, we had almost all those guys back,” Smith said. “If we don't have group of guys back, then we're having to tell guys about something they didn't experience. And that's way different.”
Smith was a record-setter, too, becoming the school's all-time wins leader for any sport when an April 17 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi marked his 650th career win. As the No. 6-ranked Bears enter the Big 12 Tournament at 42-12 overall and 20-4 in league play, Smith's victory total is at 661.
“Coaches don't do anything without a lot of help,” Smith said. “I've been blessed with a really stable staff for 18 years, a lot of good players and a lot of good support.
“When you achieve something in anything, any kind of milestone, you want to share it with the people who are helping you do it.
“That's been special.”