By Chris Derrett
Baylor baseball lost its season opener Friday against Oral Roberts but rallied to win the next two games, winning Sunday in dramatic fashion.
Sophomore Jake Miller earned his first collegiate walk-off hit Sunday, giving Baylor a 5-4 win over Oral Roberts in 10 innings at Baylor Ballpark.
“For me it is the greatest feeling in the world. There is nothing like a walk-off hit to win the series,” Miller said. “I had struggled early in the series so I was just trying to look for a good pitch and drive the runner home.”
Miller’s single down the right field line clinched the three-game series for the No. 16-ranked Bears, who fell to the Golden Eagles Friday night but beat them Saturday.
Freshman pitcher Trae Davis collected his second straight win by tossing Baylor’s final three innings. In 34 pitches across 10 batters, Davis held Oral Roberts to one hit and struck out a batter as well.
Davis’ performance put an exclamation point on the Bears’ pitching in the series. The Mexia High School graduate threw some of the fastest and slowest pitches Oral Roberts saw all weekend, using both effectively.
In the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on first, Davis blew away Bennett Pickar with a 93 miles per hour fastball. Pickar could not catch up to the pitch, swinging at strike three after seeing 70 miles per hour curveballs in the two prior pitches.
“I talked to [head coach Steve] Smith at the beginning of the season. He knew I was a fastball guy, but in order for me to really be able to contribute at this level, off-speed was going to have to get better,” Davis said.
Smith liked what he saw from his freshman hurler.
“I just loved the way he threw in the strike zone,” Smith said. “He didn’t throw a lot of pitches and didn’t strike a lot of guys out.”
Pinckard hits game-winning HR
Baylor baseball rebounded from a Friday night loss to beat Oral Roberts, 9-4, behind a late inning surge Saturday.
“Our pitching was better [than Friday],” Smith said.
“They’ve got a good offensive club. I thought our guys pitched today better.”
The Bears pounded the Golden Eagles for five seventh-inning runs, starting with junior Brooks Pinckard’s home run that gave Baylor the lead for good.
“I was looking for a first-pitch fastball, try to put a good swing on it. It got up in the air, and the wind took it out,” Pinckard said about his fourth career home run.
Pinckard unexpectedly took the mound one batter into the eighth inning to seal the win for the Bears. Had his team not already taken such a large lead, he could have added a save to his game-winning homer.
Bears drop season opener
Oral Roberts pounced on Baylor’s pitching and sputtering offense to take Friday’s game.
Junior Logan Verrett had a forgettable night on the mound, surrendering four runs and six hits in three innings. Offensively Baylor managed six hits, four through the first seven innings.
“When a team puts seven runs on the board, gets 11 hits, does what [Oral Roberts] did tonight, you’ve got to give them credit, but you pitched poorly,” Smith said.
The NCAA’s newly mandated bats, designed to make college baseball’s metal bats behave more like wooden bats, did not seem to affect Oral Roberts.
The Golden Eagles blasted Verrett in the top of the third for four doubles. The second, a Brandon King shot down the right field line, drove in the game’s first two runs.
Nick Baligod’s double to right center brought home another run, and Baligod scored on junior Joey Hainsfurther’s passed ball.
“You feel like you’ve got to have a great outing, set the bar high for everybody else,” Verrett said. “I didn’t do that.”