By Jeffrey Swindoll
While most Baylor students spent their spring break outside Waco, Baylor baseball was still hard at work, facing multiple opponents over the week-long vacation from classes.
On Friday, the Bears squared off against No. 23 Texas Tech in their first conference matchup for a three-game series at Baylor Ballpark. The Bears took the series 2-1 with a 1-0 win Friday and a 2-1 victory Saturday. Baylor (10-9, 2-1) missed the sweep when Texas Tech (16-5, 1-2) earned its only win in the series Sunday in a 7-1 decision.
“I felt like we didn’t do anything the first two days to lose games, therefore we were able to squeeze some runs in and get wins,” Baylor head coach Steve Smith said. “[On Sunday] we did some things that left us open to losing the game, and we did them from the get go. It really only caught up to us in one inning but we put ourselves out there quite a few times, and eventually you get burned.”
Baylor’s pitching staff shut down the Red Raiders and enabled Baylor’s low-run production to be the difference to win the series despite errors and a lack of pressure on Texas Tech’s pitching. In the eighth inning of game three, Texas Tech finally broke through Baylor’s pitching, posting seven runs against.
“The wind definitely played a factor, but things didn’t fall the way we wanted them [on Sunday]” junior infielder Duncan Wendel said. “If we want to win a lot of games, we’re going to have to score more than one run.”
Both teams were forced to overcome the elements in Waco. Game two saw sporadic rainfall and game three was affected greatly by Sunday’s strong wind. Fielding became a difficult task for both sides on the weekend. Baylor ended the series with five errors and the Red Raiders committed all three of their errors in game one.
Much like the weather at Baylor Ballpark recently, the Bears’ offense has shown frequent inconsistency. In one of Baylor’s past weekend series this season against Austin Peay, the Bears lit up the scoreboard with two double-digit blowouts. Solid defense and aggressive hitting got the job done for the Bears against Austin Peay. Against the Red Raiders, Baylor struggled to affect the game from the plate. Thanks to starting pitchers Dillon Newman on Friday and junior Brad Kuntz on Saturday, all the Bears needed were a couple runs to squeak out the two wins.
Newman (2-1) earned Baylor its second straight Big 12 pitcher of the week award after seven strikeouts in Friday’s 1-0 win. Kuntz (3-0) followed Newman’s exceptional form on the mound by striking out five different batters and only giving up three hits in the first five innings of game two.
“Anytime the team wins, it’s always a good day as a pitcher,” junior pitcher Brad Kuntz said. “A win’s a win. It’s hard to complain too much, but there’s definitely stuff I still need to work on.”
Game three saw Baylor cycle through seven pitchers, and only two of those pitchers played more than an inning. Junior pitcher Austin Stone started it off for Baylor on the right note. Stone pitched 5.2 innings and held Texas Tech scoreless. Stone conceded only two hits and threw four strikeouts.
Pitchers freshman Drew Tolson, junior Sean Spicer and freshman Nick Lewis were each on the mound for the Bears when Texas Tech suddenly erupted with seven runs all in the eighth inning. Tolson and Lewis gave up two runs each and Spicer conceded three runs to help the Red Raiders put the game away.
The eighth inning of game three could have possibly been blamed on weather and errors, but hitting, something actually in Baylor’s control, certainly did not help.
With this series win over Texas Tech, the Bears opened the Big 12 season with two wins and one loss, giving the Bears a favorable starting position for their next conference series this weekend against Oklahoma State.
The Bears have a chance to prepare for that Big 12 matchup against OSU with a one-off game against Houston Baptist at 6:30 p.m. today at Baylor Ballpark.