By Greg DeVries
“Others receiving votes.” That’s where the Baylor baseball team was in the rankings to begin the season. A record of 35-7, including 24 straight wins, has changed the minds of voters around the country.
Collegiate Baseball Newspaper ranked Baylor the No. 1 team in the country Monday, in a first-place tie with the Kentucky Wildcats. This marks the first time in program history that baseball has earned the nation’s top ranking.
The team is also ranked No. 3 by Baseball America and Perfect Game, and No. 4 by USA Today/ESPN. This was due in large part to the recent three-game sweep of then-No. 2 Texas A&M University and the 24-game winning streak.
“I don’t try to explain it. We didn’t win 24 straight. We won a game 24 times,” head coach Steve Smith said. “The guys are just playing. I don’t have to explain it.”
The first game of the series took place Friday in College Station. With the Bears down by one run in the top of the eighth inning, sophomore second baseman Lawton Langford hit an RBI single down the left field line. With two outs, junior center fielder Logan Vick drove in the go-ahead runs and gave Baylor the 5-3 advantage and subsequent win.
“I haven’t been frustrated, nor have I sensed any kind of frustration with this team in so long that I can’t remember the last time I had it,” Smith said after Friday’s game. “They’re just competing.”
Senior right-handed pitcher Trent Blank earned his nation-leading ninth win of the season in front of a Baylor Ballpark record 5,911 spectators. Blank pitched eight shutout innings and helped the Bears win 1-0.
“It felt like somebody else was behind me, so I just want to thank God right now,” Blank said. “I want to thank these fans, I want to thank my teammates and family. It was amazing. [The crowd] felt great and I hope they keep coming out.”
The only run of the game came when Langford drew a walk to load the bases again in the bottom of the fifth.
With freshman right-fielder Adam Toth and junior designated hitter Nathan Orf on third and second, respectively, Max Muncy delivered an RBI sacrifice fly to center field that scored Toth and gave the Bears a 1-0 lead in the third inning.
There was much more offense in the final game of the series.
The Bears posted four runs in the bottom of the first inning, highlighted by senior catcher Josh Ludy’s two-run home run over the left field wall.
The home run came on the 15th pitch of the at bat after Ludy fouled off pitch after pitch.
“I hardly ever foul off that many pitches. I don’t know if I ever have,” Ludy said. “Luckily I just got a pitch I could handle better, and [I was] just looking for a [sacrifice] fly or something. It ended up going out.”
The Aggies fought and took the lead in the top of the sixth inning.
Ludy doubled down the left field line to end a long hitless streak by the Bears.
Vick followed with a double to the right fielder that advanced Ludy to third base.
The Bears regained the lead after senior left fielder Dan Evatt singled up the middle to score both runners and help the Bears regain the lead, 6-5.
“I just got a good pitch to hit. I really locked in, got extremely focused for that at bat because I knew it was a huge one. I thought I got it done,” Evatt said. “It’s kind of nice to send them off to the SEC with a sweeping.”
The Bears added another run before winning 7-5 and completing the three-game sweep of Texas A&M.
The Bears will next travel to San Antonio to take on the University of Texas at San Antonio tonight.
The Bears come back to Baylor Ballpark at 6 p.m. today to take on the University of Texas at Arlington.