By Daniel Hill
The Baylor Bears defeated the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners 12-10 on Sunday and won the series overall, two games to one. The Bears fell behind 9-4 and then scored eight runs total over the last two innings to earn the victory and to capture a crucial Big 12 series victory.
The Bears were trailing 10-8 to Oklahoma in the bottom of the eighth inning with the bases loaded. Senior third baseman Cal Towey stepped to the plate and was patient to work his way to an advantageous 3-1 count. Towey was hoping for a fastball and Oklahoma obliged. Towey launched the ball deep over the right field fence for monstrous grand slam to give the Bears a sudden 12-10 lead.
“I thought offensively, our guys just kept swinging,” head coach Steve Smith said. “We drew some walks. Towey is going to be remembered for the ball he crushed but the two at-bats before that, he stayed off of two strike breaking balls off left-handers and drew walks. When a guy is doing that, I felt like we had a chance at that point. He’s not chasing. Just because you get a 3-1 fastball, doesn’t mean that you’re going to hit it out of the park. Give him credit. He got one and that’s what he did.”
Senior left-handed pitcher Crayton Bare, who took the mound in relief originally in the top of they eighth, then came out in the top of the ninth and finished Oklahoma with a strikeout, and the defense helped him out by turning a 6-4-3 double play to end the game and lock up the overall series victory.
“Yeah, the guys are playing really well and it’s even guys too that are coming off of the bench and playing really well who have a lot of heart so when they get their chance they’re swinging the bat well and having really tight, competitive at bats,” Bare said. “We made a few uncharacteristic mistakes but it really shows the way our team plays. At the end of the day, our competitiveness and this heat paid off. We’re still climbing as a team and as long as we keep climbing, I like our chances.”
In the top of the first, the Bears started in hot water with a string of errors. Towey made an error at third and then junior second baseman
Lawton Langford made an error to put two Sooners on base. The Sooners made Baylor pay for its mistakes as first baseman Matt Oberste smacked a double to left field to score the first OU run, and then third baseman Kolbey Carpenter hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Oklahoma’s second run and put the Bears down early, 2-0.
In the bottom of the first, the Bears answered when junior designated hitter Grayson Porter hit a shot down the left field line to score sophomore center fielder Logan Brown and Langford. Brown reached base originally on a hit by pitch, and Langford worked the count for a walk. Senior right fielder Nathan Orf hit a single to left to load the bases. Senior shortstop Jake Miller singled to right center to score Orf and Porter and give Baylor a 4-2 cushion.
Baylor’s lead would’t last long as Oklahoma left fielder Hunter Haley annihilated a ball that soared over the right field fence for a two-run home run. Oklahoma tacked on one more run when center fielder Craig Aiken singled to center to give Oklahoma a 5-4 lead.
Baylor sophomore right-handed starting pitcher Austin Stone pitched two innings and allowed five total runs, but only three earned runs, on five hits. In the third inning, sophomore right-handed pitcher Ryan Smith started the inning. Smith ended up pitching five innings and allowed four runs off of six hits.
In the top of the third, the Sooners scored another insurance run to take a 6-4 lead after second baseman Hector Lorenzana singled to left to score Oberste.
In the fourth inning, Oklahoma seemingly broke the game open by bursting out for three more runs to take a commanding 9-4 lead. With runners on second and third, Lorenzana singled to center to bring in two runs and then catcher Anthony Hermelyn doubled to right center to bring in Lorenzana for the three-run frame.
In the bottom of the seventh, the resilient Bears started their comeback bid. Freshman pinch hitter Mitch Price got on base by taking a pitch to the shoulder. Freshman infielder West Tunnell came in for Price to pinch run. Brown drew a walk to put runners on first and second. Then Langford singled to center field to load the bases. Orf hit a routine grounder to short and Oklahoma had a casual double play opportunity, but Orf ran with hustle and was safe at first to beat the double play attempt. On Orf’s hit, Tunnell was able to score to make it 9-5. With Towey up at the plate to bat, there was a past ball that allowed Brown to score, 9-6. Sophomore pinch hitter Duncan Wendel singled to center to score Orf, 9-7. Then Miller singled to center to score Porter and make it 9-8.
In the bottom of the eighth, Baylor Ballpark turned into a frenzied madhouse as the bases were loaded for Towey. Tunnell started the eighth inning rally by singling to center, and then Langford was hit by pitch. Orf reached on an error from Oklahoma left fielder Hunter Haley on a ball that Haley should have caught. This was the sequence that put Baylor’s power-hitting third baseman Cal Towey at the plate with bases loaded. Towey delivered with fireworks as he patiently waited for a pitch to drive, and on 3-1 Towey launched a mammoth shot deep over the right field fence to give Baylor a 12-10 lead.
“Yeah, it was a 3-1 fastball,” Towey said. “Before he had just thrown two breaking balls and another fastball up and in. I laid off the curve balls so I got my treat. The game just felt like it wasn’t over until whoever had the last out. It felt like there were going to be a lot of runs. They scored pretty quick. It started out sloppy too, my fault on the first part. We just got it together and started scoring.”
The win gives Baylor a 19-17 overall record and a 7-4 Big 12 Conference record. The win keeps Baylor in third place in the Big 12 where they only slightly trail Oklahoma (8-4) and Kansas State (6-3) for the race to the Big 12 Championship.
“We knew coming into this series that this was the team that we were going to compete with for that title,” Miller said. “The record, with the way it is right now, for us, a series like this against the No. 8 team in the country is going to help out our RPI a lot. In the dugout, we were never out of it. We always have a chance and we got into that bullpen and the more and more we got into that bullpen, the better the outcome that we have. This is why I play baseball, for games like this.”
The Bears play again this Tuesday on the road as they travel to San Marcos to take on Texas State.