By Greg DeVries
The No. 23 Baylor baseball team dropped the final game of its series against No. 2 UCLA 5-4. Baylor finished the series 1-2 and is now 2-5 on the season.
“I thought we played hard and I thought we competed,” head coach Steve Smith said. “We’ve got some issues on the mound and behind the plate that got exposed. I thought we were fortunate at the end of it to be in the game with all of those things. We gave them a lot of free opportunities.”
The first two innings were dominated by pitching on both sides. The Bears were all retired in order. UCLA managed a blooping single over the head of junior second baseman Brett Doe, but the runner was unable to advance.
UCLA started the third inning with a single up the middle. With one on and no outs, the runner advanced to second on a fielder’s choice. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Austin Stone struck out the next batter, but the Bruins still had a runner in scoring position. Stone got out of the jam by forcing a pop fly to deep center field.
“I really got ahead with the fastball and relied on the change more,” Stone said. “They kind of extended a lot and I got a lot of fly balls and slow grounders.”
After another 1-2-3 inning from the Bears, sophomore right-handed pitcher Sean Spicer took the mound.
An error on freshman first baseman Mitch Price in the top of the fourth allowed the Bruins to get a base runner with no outs in the inning. UCLA first baseman Pat Gallagher followed with a single up the middle. With two on and no outs, Spicer forced a ground ball straight at Price. A quick throw to third got the force out, but the Bears were still in a jam.
Spicer walked the next batter, and Bears were looking at a bases-loaded, one-out scenario. A sacrifice fly from the Bruins allowed the first run of the day to cross the plate. That was the only damage done in the inning, and UCLA took a 1-0 advantage going in to the bottom of the fourth inning.
Senior outfielder Nathan Orf was the first Bear to reach base on the day. Senior third baseman Cal Towey singled to left field to keep the inning alive for the Bears. Some athletic defense by UCLA ended the inning, and the Bears stranded two on in the fourth.
A one-out RBI double from the Bruins gave UCLA a 2-0 lead. With runners on second and third, senior left-handed pitcher Crayton Bare took the mound for the Bears.
A two-out single by the Bruins put the Bears in a 4-0 hole before Bare could end the inning with a strikeout.
Junior designated hitter Grayson Porter started the inning off with a walk. He advanced to second off of a single by senior shortstop Jake Miller. Doe moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt towards the mound.
Junior catcher Nate Goodwin put the Bears on the board with an RBI sacrifice fly to right field.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, sophomore pinch-hitter Duncan Wendel singled to center field to score two runs. This cut the Bruin’s lead to one run, 4-3.
“I got a fastball, and I wasn’t really looking for anything,” Wendel said. “[I was] just reacting to whatever he was going to throw, and it happened to be on the outside corner, so I was able to go with it.”
With one on and one out in the top of the eighth inning, junior right-handed pitcher Josh Michalec took the mound for the Bears. Michalec retired the final two batters in the inning.
Sophomore outfielder Adam Toth flew around the bases after senior third baseman Cal Towey singled to right field. Toth narrowly escaped the catcher’s tag attempt, and Baylor tied the game, 4-4.
Michalec found himself in a jam in the top of the ninth with runners at the corners and no outs. UCLA scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball. Freshman Catcher Jimmy Landes allowed two pitches to get by him in the ninth inning.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, all three Bears struck out to end the game.
Baylor will next take on Pepperdine at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at Baylor Ballpark.