By Nathan Keil | Sports Writer
No. 15 Baylor won the series opener against No. 23 Houston by a score of 3-2 Friday night and then split a Sunday doubleheader with the Cougars by taking the first game 5-0 but falling 2-0 in the finale.
Head coach Steve Rodriguez stressed how difficult it is to win both games of a doubleheader.
“Our coaches will tell you just from past history, sweeping doubleheaders is a hard thing to do,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a long time out there, emotions are high then you take a break and get back up again. One team is upset, one team isn’t. This game we lost but I tell the guys we aren’t going to go 53-1 on the season but going 14-2 the way we’ve started out and having our guys competing, I have no problem with where we’re going right now.
With the win in the opener on Sunday, Baylor took the series 2-1 over the Cougars.
In the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, Baylor used a five run eighth inning to break open a scoreless game and upend Houston 5-0 at Baylor Ballpark.
Junior shortstop Tucker Cascadden got the rally going with a leadoff single down the left field line. Following a sacrifice bunt that put Cascadden at second base, a walk and a hit by pitch loaded the bases for the Bears. Freshman catcher Shea Langeliers delivered a sacrifice fly to bring in the first run.
Senior designated hitter Matt Menard then delivered a two-run single to put Baylor up 3-0. After a second hit by pitch in the inning and a wild pitch put runners on second and third, senior first baseman Aaron Dodson delivered the final blow to the Cougars with another two-run single, giving the Bears a 5-0 lead in the eighth.
Menard said that in the tough weather conditions at Baylor Ballpark and the quality pitching for the Cougars, the best thing for Baylor was just to get to the bullpen.
“That makes it a lot easier on the pitching staff whenever the starter can go seven, eight, nine innings for us and all three guys this weekend did unbelievable,” Menard said. “Obviously when we don’t have to use the bullpen a lot that’s a good series for us. We just have to continue to grind, continue to fight and give us, the hitters a chance.”
Sophomore pitcher Kyle Hill once again came in to earn the win in relief after junior starter Montana Parsons went 7.1, allowing four hits and striking out six. Hill allowed one walk but did not surrender a hit in closing out game two of the series.
University of Houston’s sophomore pitcher Mitch Ullom took the loss for the Cougars despite getting Houston into the eighth inning without allowing a run. He was responsible for the first two Baylor runs despite allowing just four hits. Houston’s offense once again let down the Cougar pitchers by managing just four hits off the Baylor pitching staff.
In the second game on Sunday, the Baylor bats were silenced by Cougars’ senior pitcher John King. King went the distance for Houston, scattering three hits and walking one while striking out five to help prevent the sweep.
Houston junior shortstop Jake Scheiner delivered the blow in the top half of the ninth inning with his two-run single to center field.
The Cougars were limited to just three hits by freshman pitcher Cody Bradford but Scheiner delivered the key hit, something they had failed to do in the first two games of the series.
Bradford, who took the loss, matched King all game long but two walks and a balk in the ninth inning helped Houston come out on top.
The final outcome on Sunday did not overshadow the strong play from the Bears, beginning with senior pitcher Nick Lewis on Friday.
In the series opener, Baylor slipped by Houston 2-1 thanks in part to some opportunistic hitting by the Bears and a gusty performance from the bullpen.
Sophomore second baseman Josh Bissonette had two hits, Cascadden delivered a go ahead run scoring single in the bottom of the seventh and junior outfielder Kameron Esthay scored both runs for the Bears.
Cascadden came up big again for the Bears five days after he played the hero with a walk-off grand slam against Texas A&M. He said his approach at the plate has stayed the same but that his confidence has been the key.
“Oh my gosh, it keeps finding me,” Cascadden said. “I swear we’re not rigging the game like that. It just happens, and I’m just thankful to do the job. I’m feeling really confident at the plate, even with an arm like that (Houston pitcher Seth Romero). I think that’s the best arm we’ve seen all year.”
Lewis worked his way out of trouble all night long before the seventh inning. Houston made two crucial errors on the base paths and hit into four inning ending double plays to help preserve a 1-0 Baylor lead.
However, Lewis would need a little help from his friends in the seventh inning. With runners on the corners with two outs a full count to Cougars’ third baseman Jared Triolo, Lewis misfired on a fastball high and tight that went behind the runner, allowing Houston to tie the game, and allowing the Cougars to put the go ahead run just 90 feet away at third base.
Rodriguez then turned the game over to Hill, who struck out a pinch hitter to end the seventh. Hill then went into the eighth inning and got out all three Cougars he faced in the eighth. Junior closer Troy Montemayor then came on in the ninth to record his fifth save.
Junior catcher Connor Wong had two hits, including a double for the Cougars. Junior pitcher Seth Romero took the loss on the mound, allowing one unearned run on four hit while striking out 11, his fourth 10+ strikeout performance this season.
With the series win, Baylor improves to 14-2 on the season. According to Rodriguez, the team is playing loose, smart, care-free baseball and this attitude is leading to its success on the diamond.
“I’m just happy that our guys are playing that free and excited and, to be honest, just smart baseball,” Rodriguez said. “They’re knowing where they’re supposed to go, doing what they’re supposed to do. That just makes my job a lot easier.”
Baylor will hit the road for a 6:30 p.m Wednesday matchup with Dallas Baptist University before returning home to host West Virginia in its conference opener.