Baseball continues perfect conference start

No. 22 pitcher Trent Blank throws the ball on Saturday, March 24, 2012, at the Baylor Ballpark. Baseball shut out Kansas 9-0. Meagan Downing | Lariat Photographer
No. 22 pitcher Trent Blank throws the ball on Saturday at Baylor Ballpark. The Bears shut out Kansas, 9-0, for the premier win in the three game sweep.
Meagan Downing | Lariat Photographer

By Savannah Pullin

Baylor swept the series against the Kansas Jayhawks this weekend with what can surely be called a bizarre end to the Sunday afternoon series finisher.

The afternoon started off with a jolt. Baylor gained a quick 2-0 lead that grew to a 6-1 lead by the third inning with the help from two hits from junior first baseman Max Muncy, who was named Big 12 Player of the Week, and a two-run home run from senior outfielder Dan Evatt.

The Bears held a strong five-run lead through four innings, but showed weakness in the fifth as the Jayhawks battled back.

Baylor gave up four runs, allowing the Jayhawks to inch within one run of the Bears with a score of 6-5.

“It’s just the nature of the game,” said head coach Steve Smith. “They saw Max (Muncy) several times through the lineup, Brad (Kuntz) wasn’t as sharp today as he was the past two times out; all that’s just part of the game.”

The bizarre part came after Kansas continued its comeback to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh.

In the top of the eighth, after loading the bases with two outs, Baylor took sophomore right-handed relief pitcher Dillon Newman off the mound and substituted junior left-handed pitcher Crayton Bare.

In the bases loaded situation, Bare faced Kansas catcher James Stanfield with a 3-2 curveball. The pitch was called for the third strike of the at-bat to end the half-inning and give Bare his second win of the season.

“I’d thrown a few in the bullpen. I felt pretty good coming into the game,” Bare said. “I knew it was left on left and that’s the pitch to go to, and in a 3-2 count, that’s my best pitch, so I was going to go after their best guy with my best pitch.”

Baylor’s wild win came in the eighth inning, starting with a walk earned by junior shortstop Jake Miller to get on base. Miller was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Michael Howard, then made his way to third after junior designated hitter Nathan Orf was hit with a pitch.

After hitting two homeruns Saturday, Muncy came up to bat, with the bases loaded.

He nailed a line drive double down the first base-line to bring home Miller and Orf, earning his fourth hit of the day and giving Baylor the 8-6 lead.

“I think I’m just finding spots where they weren’t at for once,” Muncy said. “I’m hitting the ball well lately but right at people, and unfortunately, that’s part of baseball. This weekend I just got a little lucky that they weren’t there.”

Muncy’s hit came at the perfect time; one pitch later, the game was called due to Kansas’ travel curfew, giving the Bears the win to finish the series.

Some players were aware of the imposed time limit.

“The umpires kept warning everybody that the time limit was coming up close,” Muncy said. “We were running on 4:15, so we all knew we had to score because when the time limit comes, you don’t want to be stuck on the other side of that.”

However, others had their heads too far in the game to be worried about the clock.

“I didn’t have any clue about the time limit, but I think we were playing to win no matter what,” Bare said.

The weekend sweep of Kansas keeps Baylor on track with an exciting start: 18-7 for the season, 6-0 in the Big 12, the best in league history, and the Bears have won seven in a row.

Smith described their success in terms of running of a marathon, where Baylor is on the downhill slope.

“A lot of times spots in this league are separated by half games and games, so this one will be interesting to look back on when the season is over and just see how big it really was,” Smith said.