By Daniel Hill
The Baylor baseball team capped off a three-game sweep against the Texas Longhorns with a 5-2 win Sunday afternoon at Baylor Ballpark. For the last home Big 12 series, the Baylor seniors went out with a bang by sweeping Texas.
Senior shortstop Jake Miller was 2-4 and scored a run. Senior third baseman Cal Towey had two RBIs and was also 2-4. Senior right fielder Nathan Orf was 1-3 with a RBI as well.
“But seriously, the difference between these two teams is seniors,” head coach Steve Smith said. “We’ve got 10 or so seniors and they’ve had one senior appear in a game this year. That’s just a different team. They’ve lost some guys in the draft and we’ve had guys that have either chosen to stay or were just a tick below what somebody wanted and they were good enough for us.”
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Ryan Smith took the mound and had the longest outing of his young career by going six and two-thirds innings and only allowing two runs.
“It’s always a big deal sweeping them and it just keeps us in the race,” Ryan Smith said. “We’re in the race right now and be just have to keep playing tough and winning ball games. We’ve got to play tough and confident. That’s about all we’ve got to do.”
Smith struck out three and only walked one batter. The Longhorns earned six hits off of Smith but in the end, Smith received credit for the win with his strong starting pitching performance.
In the bottom of third, Baylor scored their first run of the game. Junior second baseman Lawton Langford hit a ground ball single to centerfield and then Towey singled to right to advance Langford to third. Orf drove a 2-2 pitch down the left field line for a double and Langford scored to give Baylor a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, freshman designated hitter Mitch Price singled to right field and then senior catcher Brett Doe bunted for a hit. Then Langford bunted, but Price was thrown out at third base trying to advance. Next there was a wild pitch and the runners advanced to second and third base. Towey then singled to right to drive in two runs to give Baylor a 3-0 lead.
In the top of the sixth, Texas scored its first run of the game. Right fielder Mark Payton drew a walk from Ryan Smith and then catcher Jacob Felts singled to left field to drive in Payton and give Texas its first score of the game.
In the top of the seventh, Texas tacked on one more final run. With two outs, Smith struck out Texas center fielder Weston Hall but Hall was able to advance safely to first on the wild pitch. The next Longohrns batter, second baseman Brooks Marlow, singled to right field to put runners on the corners. Shortstop C.J. Hinojosa outran a dribbler to the gap between third base and the shortstop to be safe at first for a hit. The hit drove in Hall to give Texas its second run and cut into the 3-2 Baylor lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, Baylor scored two more insurance runs to take a permanent 5-2 lead. Against right-handed Texas relief pitcher Corey Knebel, one of the best pitchers in the nation, Jake Miller doubled to center field, and then sophomore center fielder Adam Toth drew a walk. Senior first baseman Steve DalPorto singled to center to drive in Miller and then sophomore pinch hitter Duncan Wendel doubled to the left center field gap to give Baylor a 5-2 lead.
Junior left-handed pitcher Doug Ashby came in after Ryan Smith and gave Baylor four outs before turning to ball over to senior lefty Crayton Bare for the save. Bare struck out three and sealed the win and the sweep for the Bears.
“We’ve just got to keep plugging away, and this weekend kind of summed up our team,” Miller said. “We’re not going to give any at bats away. We’re going to keep grinding and we’re not going to look at the stat sheet but all we know is that if we keep winning, then our chances of advancing to the postseason are greater. If we win in the Big 12, then there is still a chance that we could get that title back. That’s what we’re working for and the seniors are sticking together and we are just trying to guide the young guys through this.”
On Tuesday, the Baylor Bears hit the road for a 6:35 p.m. game against UT Arlington. With a 24-20 overall record and an 11-6 Big 12 Conference record, these last eight games are pivotal for Baylor. The Bears are riding a four-game winning streak and are just behind Oklahoma in the race for the Big 12 title.