By Chris Derrett
Editor in chief
Baylor had opportunities to score and punch its ticket to an NCAA tournament super regional on Sunday night, but those chances went unrealized as the Bears fell to California, 8-0.
The game actually ended on Monday at 12:11 in the morning. Cal won a weather-delayed game over Rice, eliminating the Owls from the tournament, earlier in the day.
With both Baylor and Cal losing once in the Houston Regional, they will face each other once more at 6 p.m. Monday in a win-or-go-home game for the regional title.
Baylor could not figure out Cal starter Kyle Porter, who went a career-long 6.2 innings and struck out a career-high nine batters to improve to 5-0 on the season.
“In these tournaments, it seems every year that for a team to really settle, someone has to do something that they haven’t done before. I thought that’s what [Porter] did today,” head coach Steve Smith said.
Junior Brooks Pinckard was equally effective for Baylor on the mound but made one mistake that helped Cal to its game-winning run. Baylor’s bullpen then allowed Cal to blow the game open with a seven-run eighth.
Pinckard had scattered five hits and held Cal scoreless through five innings. He looked to make quick work of the sixth, but Chad Bunting turned on Pinckard’s 1-0 pitch and sent it over the left field wall for a 1-0 Cal advantage.
“I was trying to go fastball in, and I left it over the plate,” Pinckard said. “Hats off to [Bunting], but I definitely missed my spot on that one.”
Cal added seven runs in the eighth off Pinckard’s successors, freshman Dillon Newman and junior Trent Blank. Newman watched leadoff hitter Chadd Krist reach on sophomore right fielder Cal Towey’s fielding error and gave up a single before giving way to Blank.
After a RBI-single from Devon Rodriguez and a sacrifice bunt, Bunting blasted his second home run of the game, a three-run shot, for a 5-0 Cal lead.
A hit batter, two singles and a Krist double later, Blank was finished and Cal had an 8-0 lead.
Despite only recording three hits off Porter, Baylor received several baserunners with Porter on the mound. Unfortunately for Smith’s team, none of those runners could find a way across home plate.
Baylor squandered a golden opportunity in the fourth after sophomore Max Muncy was hit by a pitch and junior Josh Ludy drew a walk. Porter retired the next three Baylor batters with a failed bunt attempt popout, a strikeout and a high infield popout.
“We didn’t execute anything in this game as well as we’ve been executing offensively [this season],” Smith said. “It would have taken a good job today because we had very few opportunities to do it.”
More frustration came in the seventh, which sophomore Jake Miller began with a double to right center and an advance to third by Logan Vick’s bunt. But sophomore Steve DalPorto grounded out and senior Landis Ware struck out to end the inning.
Baylor also had a baserunner in the fifth and sixth inning, but Porter got a two-out groundout in the fifth and struck out two straight batters in the sixth to spoil the potential rally.
As Baylor has done after past disappointments this season, it now looks to forget Sunday’s performance and earn its first super regional berth since the Bears’ 2005 College World Series appearance.
“We’re going to flush it. There’s nothing we can do about it now; we’re going to come out tomorrow and act like this never happened,” Miller said.
Smith said he expects to start senior Jon Ringenberg in Monday’s game. Ringenberg enters with a 2.25 ERA and 2-1 mark this season in 28.0 innings pitched. Junior Logan Verrett, who threw 7.1 innings in the Bears’ 6-4 win over Cal on Friday, could be called upon for a few innings of relief on Monday as well.