By Chris Derrett
Baylor starter Josh Turley had his fans’ hearts racing in the latter stages of the Bears’ 3-2 win over Rice on Saturday, but he escaped every jam to help his team move closer to a super regional berth.
Turley went the distance, striking out seven batters and throwing 135 pitches in his first career complete game as he and his team held on to an early lead for the victory.
“I think we were all treated to an outstanding game,” coach Steve Smith said. “Both [starting pitchers] were really, really on top of their game on the mound. I think it was a great, great baseball game.”
In Saturday’s final four innings, Turley stranded four Rice baserunners and induced two double plays to evade trouble.
With the win, Turley improved to 4-5 on the season. He has tossed at least six innings in nine of his last 13 starts and has only surrendered four earned runs once in those 13 starts. Earlier in the season Turley faced Rice and lasted 4.1 innings in the Bears’ 12-8, extra innings win.
In that first game against Rice, Turley’s 4.1 innings set a new career long. Saturday he was asked if he’s felt as much improvement as his statistics imply.
“I’d like to think so,” Turley said. “I don’t think by that time I’d had a start over four innings in my career. After that, I kind of picked it up a little bit and got the ball rolling.”
On Saturday the ball rolled a lot, to the tune of 11 groundouts for Turley including a game-ending double play.
“I felt great tonight. All of my pitches were working for the most part until late in the game where I started to wear down a bit,” Turley said. “I just tried to attack and be aggressive and let our defense work, and it worked for us.”
Turley’s counterpart, Austin Kubitza, went 7.1 innings and held Baylor to five hits while he struck out nine batters.
Baylor scored what proved to be the winning runs in the first inning. Sophomore Max Muncy, who struggled to a 1 for 4 performance on Thursday, blasted a double to deep right center to score sophomore Cal Towey.
“Yesterday was a frustrating day. I had the bases loaded twice and didn’t get a single run in,” Muncy said. “When I got that first hit today, it was kind of like a piano got lifted off my shoulders. It was a lot easier to hit after that.”
Muncy was the only Bear with more than one hit on Kubitza Saturday night, hitting an eighth-inning, leadoff single to finish 2 for 3.
Junior Josh Ludy added another Bears run in the first with a single laced to center to score Muncy.
In the third, Pinckard practically manufactured another run by himself. He drew a leadoff walk and stole two bases, later scoring on Ludy’s groundout. Pinckard tallied a hit, a walk, a sacrifice bunt, one run and two stolen bases in the game.
Rice broke through in the sixth inning. Keenan Cook drew a leadoff walk, and J.T. Chargois singled to Pinckard in right. On the play, Pinckard tried to throw out Cook running for third but instead launched the ball into the third base dugout, which allowed Cook to score. Anthony Rendon then singled to score Chargois. The threat ended, though, with a double play and strikeout.
After the inning, Turley said he was discouraged and thought his night might be finished.
“[Smith] came over and asked me how I feel. My arm was a little tired, but I wasn’t going to tell him that,” Turley said.
Turley needed 28 pitches in the seventh but got an inning-ending groundout with two runners on base.
With two outs in the eighth, Turley got Craig Manuel to groundout with runners on the corners.
Baylor now has a 6 p.m. Sunday matchup with the winner of the Rice-Cal game. If Baylor loses, it has once more chance to beat its opponent on Monday and earn a trip to a super regional.