By Chris Derrett
In the most simple terms, the Bears let one get away.
Despite receiving another quality start from sophomore Josh Turley, Baylor baseball suffered from defensive miscues and a lack of offensive execution in a 4-2 loss to Missouri on Thursday night.
The loss drops Baylor to 20-19 overall, just a game above the required .500 mark for at-large bids in the NCAA tournament, and 6-10 in Big 12 play. With the win, the Tigers improved to 15-22 overall and 3-9 against conference foes.
“It’s telling that the only runs we scored were on fly balls. We just didn’t do a good job at the plate,” head coach Steve Smith said. “From my perspective, we didn’t play the game well. We didn’t execute.”
Smith said Turley did his job, however, after throwing 6.1 innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out seven batters. Turley took the loss and dropped to 2-3.
Sophomores Cal Towey and Max Muncy each smashed solo home runs over the right field wall, Towey in the fourth and Muncy in the fifth.
But Baylor could not overcome the damage on the other side of the ball, where Missouri pounced on the Bears’ mistakes to snatch the game’s deciding runs.
Turley looked to escape a fifth inning jam with one out and runners on first and second when Eric Garcia hit a potential double play grounder back to Turley. Turley spun and threw to senior Landis Ware at second, but Ware could not make the catch. The ball ricocheted into the outfield, and Conner Mach scored from second base on the play to tie the game at two.
“It’s just frustrating to know that you have the game under control, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out,” Turley said. “I felt comfortable for the most part. I felt like I was throwing a lot of my pitches where I needed to.”
During the following at-bat, Garcia baited the Bears into a rundown, and as Ware chased Garcia down and tagged him out, Jesse Santo scampered home from third for a 3-2 Missouri lead.
“Certainly you can’t find any fault in the way [Turley] pitched. The game was lost on the defensive side and with a lot of poor execution on the offensive side,” Smith said.
Baylor had multiple chances to manufacture runs but ultimately came up short. After Towey’s fourth-inning blast, junior Brooks Pinckard popped up a bunt that could have advanced junior Dan Evatt to second. Later in the inning, Smith called a hit-and-run with Evatt on second and Ware on first. The batter, sophomore Steve DalPorto, let the pitch go by, and Evatt was easily thrown out at third. DalPorto later struck out to end the threat.
In the fifth inning, before Muncy’s homer, sophomore Logan Vick squandered sophomore Jake Miller’s single by hitting into a double play on a 2-0 count.
Smith’s unhappiness with his team’s flyouts surfaced in the box score as well. The Bears flied out nine times, at least once in every inning except the fourth.
Conversely, Missouri feasted on Baylor’s errors and stuck to its own game plan for the win. The Tigers first got on the scoreboard in the fifth. Jonah Schmidt, one of only two batters in Missouri’s starting lineup with at least one home run this season, knocked a leadoff double and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. He scored with Brannon Champagne’s RBI single.
The Tigers scored again in the seventh using two singles, a sacrifice bunt and a RBI groundout.
“You have to be able to execute. That’s all [Missouri] did was execute,” Smith said. “The team that executes best is going to win the game. It’s not really rocket science.”
Baylor meets Missouri again at 3 p.m. Friday. Junior Logan Verrett, who enters with a 3.53 ERA, is expected to start for the Bears.