By Jeffrey Swindoll
In their first game back from a winless weekend in California, Baylor (6-6) edged out Lamar University (8-5) 3-2 on a chilly, cloudy Wednesday afternoon at Baylor Ballpark.
After a rough weekend in San Diego, Baylor head coach Steve Smith was pleased to return to Baylor Ballpark and remain undefeated at home. Wednesday night’s game was the fifth straight win at home for the Bears.
“The way [results] are valued now in the NCAA, losses are worse than losses on the road,” Smith said. “We needed a win at home tonight, and we certainly didn’t need to lose another lead like we did this weekend.”
Bad weather and postponed games plagued Baylor baseball all last week. Finally, the Bears had a chance to play a game as originally scheduled on their home turf.
The overcast day looked as though it would produce rain and deal the Bears another canceled home game. For the majority of the game, the rain stayed away, but in the bottom of the seventh, rain started to come down as Baylor began its late rally to take the lead. It was not enough to end the game, but adjustments in play had to be made because of the weather’s effect on the field and players.
Players and coaches said the weather was not as much of a factor as it had been in past games, and most of the game was played on dry grass.
Wednesday’s game hosted a debut for one of Baylor’s young guns. Smith gave freshman infielder Ben Carl the nod for his first collegiate start. Carl was redshirted his first year, and developed a good reputation with the club for his defensive abilities.
“I wanted to come and have a lot of energy and just have fun,” Carl said. “I probably did a little too much at times. That proves we have a good team to pick me up regardless of those mistakes.”
Carl alleviated some of the pressure off Baylor’s pitchers early in the game with three diving catches off ground balls to get the runner out at first.
“[Carl] played light’s out for his first time at third base tonight,” Smith said. “What I always like is that the guy who shows up on game day is not any different than the guy you’ve seen at practice, and that’s exactly how we describe Ben.”
Junior Ryan Smith began the night on the mound for the Bears. Smith gave up no runs in four of his five innings. Smith did not leave unscathed though. Lamar earned the first run of the game and two hits off Smith.
“Ryan got better as the game went along,” Coach Smith said. “That was really encouraging to see.”
Ryan Smith put in a five-inning shift and ended the night with three strikeouts and two hits after facing 19 batters.
Coach Smith handed the ball to freshman pitcher Nick Lewis in the sixth inning. Lewis went up against eight batters in two innings, and gave up one hit, one run and an error. Lamar squeaked out a run to cut Baylor’s lead to one before Lewis left the mound for the night.
Senior pitcher Josh Michalec relieved Lewis in the eighth inning. Lewis left Michalec in a tough scenario to enter the game, though. Lewis managed to get one out before Michalec took over, and put two runners on second and third but the Bears survived the inning with no runs allowed.
“It did get interesting, and not everything went my way, or the team’s way,” Michalec said. “Being able to just get through that adversity, it doesn’t matter how you feel.”
Lamar bent but did not break against Baylor’s late game hitting, but could not finish the job on the offensive end.
It came down to a key play at the end that could have gone either way, including the possibility of extra innings.
Down by one in the top of the ninth with one out, Lamar put two runners on base. The odds seemed to be in Lamar’s favor to get at least one run out of Michalec in the ninth. On the ensuing play, Michalec made the catch at the mound on a line drive and then walked the ball over to sophomore first baseman Mitch Price to complete the double-play to earn the final out and earn his fourth save this season.
“The way the game ended really illustrates that it’s always better to be lucky than good,” Smith said.
Baylor returns to the diamond this weekend for a three-game series against Cal-State Fullerton (7-3) at 6:35 p.m., Friday at 3:05 p.m., Saturday and 1:05 p.m. and Sunday at Baylor Ballpark.