By Daniel Hill
The Baylor Bears earned a series victory over the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners this weekend by winning two of three games. The series victory gives the Bears a 19-17 overall record and a 7-4 Big 12 Conference record.
“I was a big series just because it was another Big 12 series and there are so few of them,” senior third baseman Cal Towey said. “You want to win those when you’re at home. They’re ranked pretty high too, and it helps you out as a team for postseason.”
The Bears defeated Oklahoma 2-1 on Friday when Towey hit a solo walk-off home run. On Saturday, Oklahoma tied the series by earning a 3-1 win thanks to a strong pitching effort by junior left-handed pitcher Dillon Overton.
During the rubber match on Sunday afternoon, the Bears fell behind early 9-4 and eventually took the lead for good when Towey delivered a grand slam to power the Bears to a 12-10 victory and a two games to one series advantage.
Towey’s heroics against Oklahoma earned him recognition as the Big 12 Player of the Week. It’s the second time this season that Towey has won the award.
The Bears entered the series in third place in the Big 12 and even after winning two of three games, the Bears are still in third place.
Eyeing the Big 12 title, the Bears only narrowly 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,” senior shortstop Jake 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 huge. That’s going to help out our RPI a lot. In the dugout, we were never out of it. We always have a chance and we kept digging in to that bullpen and the more and more we got into that bullpen, the better the outcome that we have.”
The Bears have started to focus in offensively and key players, like senior right fielder Nathan Orf and Towey, are not the only Bears contributing to the winning.
Players in the back end of the lineup are starting to step up at the plate and other players are contributing to the team’s recent success.
“The guys are playing really, really well,” senior left-handed pitcher Crayton Bare said. “It’s even guys too that are coming off of the bench and playing really well who have a lot of heart. When they get their chance, they’re swinging the bat well and having really tight, competitive at bats.”
The role players have been playing better lately and the foundational players of the offense have continued to deliver in big spots.
Towey, the Bears cleanup hitter, has a .312 batting average and has three home runs. Towey leads the team in RBIs with 35 and in doubles with 10.
Orf and Towey both are tied for the team lead in slugging percentage with a .493 slugging percentage.
Orf has the highest batting average in all of the Big 12 Conference at .419.
“He and Orf, particularly Orf, have been so much a part of our offense,” Baylor head coach Steve Smith said. “I think what I’m seeing that’s getting better is some of the other guys. [Sophomore outfielder Adam] Toth hit the ball that they threw us out over the plate for as hard as any ball I’ve seen him hit in a month. Jake Miller, he’s seeing the ball really better and giving us some quality at-bats. [Senior infielder Steve] DalPorto came into this weekend and he was hitting under .100, and now he’s got four more hits between yesterday and the day before.”
The Bears take on Texas State at 6:30 p.m. today in San Marcos. Baylor has already played Texas State earlier this season when the Bears won 6-3 at Baylor Ballpark on Feb. 19.
The Bears will go with sophomore right-handed pitcher Sean Spicer on the mound to start the game.
Spicer is 2-2 with a 5.09 ERA and has given up 16 runs in 23 innings of work.
He has eight appearances this season and has four starts. Opponents are batting just .226 against Spicer this season.
“There’s still a decent amount of games left,” Bare said. “OU is a really good opponent and we’ve also got other ones coming. Especially with using everybody. Everybody’s got to use their confidence. We’re still climbing as a team and as long as we keep climbing each week, I like our chances.”