By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
The Baylor baseball team defeated Stephen F. Austin 2-1 Tuesday night at Baylor Ballpark in a thrilling bottom-of-the-ninth comeback.
The Bears (23-14) trailed 0-1 going into the bottom of the ninth where it scored on back-to-back home runs to defeat the Lumberjacks (22-17).
Despite struggling most of the game to find rhythm on offense, the Bears pulled away when it mattered most.
Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez said it was nice to get the win in spite of the offensive struggles.
“Its frustrating,” Rodriguez said. “I know our guys were pretty frustrated. They brought in a closer […] that no one hits well off of, so it was impressive that we were able to get two home runs off of him.”
Freshman pitcher Hayden Kettler made his first start for the team and got off to a strong start. Kettler allowed zero hits in the first inning and struck out two batters.
The Bears’ offense faltered in the bottom of the first, but Kettler recorded another strikeout in the second to retire the side and bring the Baylor batters to the plate.
With one out in the top of the third, Lumberjacks’ catcher Will Foreman crushed a ball to left field, but freshman third baseman Davis Wendzel made a spectacular diving catch to snag the out as he received a round of applause from the Baylor fans.
In the bottom of the third, freshman catcher Andy Thomas launched a double and sophomore outfielder T.J. Raguse walked to put two on base, but the Bears got nothing else as freshman designated hitter Shea Langeliers grounded out to third to end the inning.
Junior reliever Joe Heineman replaced Kettler in the fourth inning. Kettler finished the night having given up no runs and no hits through three innings.
In the bottom of the fourth with two on base and two outs, Wendzel was caught leading off to third base by SFA pitcher Erik Nouis as the Lumberjacks again held the Bears to zero runs.
The Lumberjacks got on the board in the fifth after Zach Michener reached first on an error by Wendzel, and Josh Evans hit a line drive down the right field line to drive in Michener and give SFA the 1-0 lead.
Freshman pitcher Alex Phillips replaced Heineman at the mound with two outs in the fifth inning.
Thomas managed another hit in the fifth, but the Bears again were unable to make anything of it, leaving him on base as the Lumberjacks led 1-0 after five.
In the seventh, freshman Hunter Seay replaced Phillips on the mound to record one out before Seay was replaced with sophomore Kyle Hill as Rodriguez continued to churn through pitchers.
For the bottom of the eighth, Rodriguez put in pinch hitters Levi Gilcrease and Matt Menard who succeeded in a sac-bunt and sac-fly to get a walked Tucker Cascadden to third base. However, Langeliers struck out swinging on the next at-bat as the Bears went to the ninth with zero runs.
Baylor closer junior Troy Montemayor came in to pitch the ninth inning for the Bears. Montemayor recorded two strikeouts to shut out the Lumberjacks in the inning, prepping the Baylor offense for a potential comeback in the bottom of the ninth.
In the first at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, junior outfielder Kameron Esthay launched a home run just past the right field wall to tie the game at 1-1. Immediately following the Esthay homer, Wendzel nailed a dinger of his own, this time to left field, as the Bears won 2-1.
Wendzel, who hit his second homer of the season, says he and Esthay knew they had to swing freely in the ninth to bring the team back.
“We were ready to pick out some pitches, and we knew once we got those pitches we were going to need to hit them,” Wendzel said. “Earlier in the game, I think we were swinging at their pitches, but later in the game we started swinging at the pitches we knew we could hit.”
Rodriguez says the midweek win is huge for the teams momentum going in to the weekend matchup versus rival TCU.
“Anytime you get a win going in to TCU it’s a great thing,” Rodriguez said. “The momentum shift is going to be great. Being able to get some wins last weekend against Texas and a win tonight going in to TCU, it’s just nice to be able to get those things done.”
The Bears start play against TCU at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Fort Worth.