By Daniel Hill
The Baylor Bears move to 9-12 on the year after losing to the Sam Houston State Bearkats on Tuesday night, 4-2. Despite a five-inning shutout pitching performance from senior lefty Crayton Bare, the Bears narrowly fell to the Bearkats.
“Crayton gave us a chance to win the ball game and he gave us a chance to come back,” Baylor head coach Steve Smith said. “He was as good tonight as he’s been. I thought [junior catcher Nate] Goodwin behind the plate was pretty good tonight blocking balls. We were just too sloppy early on in the ball game. So much of our game is predicated on two guys, the pitcher and the catcher.”
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Sean Spicer started on the mound for the Bears and ran into trouble in the first inning.
The second batter of the game, Sam Houston State junior left fielder Luke Plucheck got barreled up on Spicer’s pitch and hit a rocket line drive deep into left center field to give the Bearkats an early 1-0 lead on the Bears.
Immediately after conceding the home run, Spicer walked sophomore designated hitter Hayden Simerly. Sophomore shortstop Carter Burgess smashed a single to center to score Simerly to give Sam Houston State a 2-0 advantage.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Bears responded with a run of their own. Sophomore center fielder Logan Brown led off with a hit and then junior second baseman Lawton Langford hit a single out to left field through the hole between shortstop and third base. Senior right fielder Nathan Orf put down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to third and second. Senior first baseman Steve DalPorto hit a grounder to shortstop, and Brown was able to score from third on the fielder’s choice.
In the bottom of the third, Baylor evened up the score at two. Senior shortstop Jake Miller started off the inning by smashing a speeding shot down the left field line for a double. The next batter, Logan Brown, put down a bunt to advance Miller to third base. Langford earned an RBI when he hit a pop fly to left field and the Bearkats outfielder made a grab to rob Langford of a hit. Miller was able to score on the sacrifice fly though to tie the game.
“I feel like as a team we are always one big hit away,” Miller said. “I feel like last year the baseball gods were on our side and things went our way. This year, it’s not exactly like we’re doing bad, but at times we’re not doing great. We need to get timely hits. That’s baseball.”
In the top of the fifth, the Bearkats took the lead once again with two more runs. Senior second basemen Jessie Plumlee was hit by a pitch, and after an error on a pick-off attempt at first base, Plumlee advanced to second base. The next Sam Houston State batter, sophomore center fielder Colt Atwood, singled to center to score Plumlee from second.
This third run marked the end of Sean Spicer’s day as Baylor head coach Steve Smith went to the bullpen and Bare on the mound. Bare immediately struck out the next two batters, but an error at first base on a pick-off attempt advanced Atwood to second. Bare walked the next batter to put runners on first and second. Sophomore right fielder Ryan O’Hearn singled to left field to score Atwood from second to give the Bearkats a 4-2 lead over the Bears.
Despite Bare only giving up two hits and zero earned runs in five innings, the Bears’ offense was unable to post another run against Sam Houston State’s pitching.
“I was throwing with a lot of command with my cutter and found my breaking ball when I really needed there with runners on first and third in the sixth inning,” Bare said.
“Then later on I kind of got in a groove there on the eighth and ninth innings. I really was just throwing cutters for strikes and threw a couple of fastballs here and there just to kind of keep them off balance and either bury the cutter late or a breaking ball. That’s what got the weak ground balls and not much contact.”
Baylor and Sam Houston State will meet tonight for the second and final game of the series. The game starts at 6:30 p.m. in Huntsville.