By Chris Derrett
It’s been a while since Baylor baseball played a game lasting three hours and 31 minutes. It’s been even longer since the team won like it did on Sunday.
Sophomore Max Muncy ended the Bears’ extra inning victory over No. 21 ranked Rice with a grand slam blasted over Minute Maid Park’s right field wall, the first Baylor (6-5) walk-off home run since February 2007 against UT Arlington.
With the score tied at eight in the 10th inning, the Owls (9-4) intentionally walked two batters to load the bases for Muncy. Muncy took a strike then sent a 0-1 pitch soaring, ending the game that featured five ties and six lead changes.
“I was just trying to find a ball I could put a good swing on, get it in the air and get the run in,” Muncy said. “I hit it, I just saw it go and I said, ‘Alright; it’s about time.’”
The game was Baylor’s last of the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park. The Bears beat the University of Houston, 5-2, on Friday and fell to Utah, 4-3, on Saturday before edging Rice.
Senior Landis Ware began the 10th inning with a double off the left field wall and advanced to third on sophomore Steve DalPorto’s sacrifice bunt. Junior Brooks Pinckard and sophomore Logan Vick each received intentional passes to set up Muncy’s shot.
“Every player on this team, there’s nothing more they’d want than to have a situation like that,” Muncy said.
Muncy knocked three hits in the game, tying Pinckard and Ware for game-highs in that category.
Baylor still has work to do, coach Steve Smith said, but the groundwork is laid for a tough-minded team.
“This wasn’t a perfectly played ball game from our standpoint,” Smith said. “I think we had some guys compete well and some other guys not as well as I think we’re going to need. But at the end they found a way to win the game.”
Freshman Trae Davis worked a scoreless 10th inning to improve to 3-0 on the season. Davis issued two walks but then got designated hitter Anthony Rendon, a .429 hitter entering Sunday’s game, to flyout in the infield. A lineout to right field ended the threat.
“That was the first walkoff grand slam I’ve ever been a part of,” Davis said. “You see it all the time on TV; you read about it. But to be a part of it in this setting, [as a] freshman, at Minute Maid Park in Houston, I can’t describe how good that is.”
J.T. Chargois, who surrendered Muncy’s home run, took the loss.
Rice struck first in the first inning on Rendon’s solo home run that squeaked over the left field wall. Baylor answered in the home half of the inning, however, when Pinckard scored on Muncy’s groundout.
Baylor plated three runs in the third. DalPorto tripled to drive in Ware, Pinckard’s single scored DalPorto, and Muncy blooped a single for the third run.
Rice forced a tied with three runs in the fourth, knocking out Baylor starter Josh Turley in the process, and grabbed a 5-4 lead the next inning.
The advantage was short lived. Ware’s single up the middle in the Bears’ sixth inning locked the game five runs apiece.
“It was kind of a frustrating game, going back and forth,” Ware said.
Rice added another two runs in the seventh. Junior Tyler Bremer gave up a bases loaded walk, and Chargois scored after the Bears could not turn an inning-ending double play.
Baylor proved unphased by the 7-5 deficit, though, and received a spark from junior Joey Hainsfurther’s two-run triple down the right field line. Senior Chris Slater’s sacrifice fly then let Hainsfurther cross home and put the Bears ahead, 8-7.
In the eighth inning, Pinckard made a familiar move from center field to pitcher seeking a two-inning save but could not close the door. Pinckard conceded a single and a double that led to an Owl run on a groundout.
It all set the stage for Muncy, who got every piece of the game’s final pitch. As Smith watched the ball’s flight, he could only wonder what it would have looked like had Muncy used a bat from last year, before the NCAA mandated less powerful bats in 2011.
“Not a lot of guys have a lot of two-strike power, but [Muncy] does,” Smith said.