By Jeffrey Swindoll
Baylor baseball protected its home turf in a 2-1 series win over the No. 20 Oklahoma State Cowboys over the weekend with a 4-1 victory on both Friday and Saturday, but lost the chance at a series sweep with a 4-1 loss on Sunday. The two wins marked Baylor’s sixth and seventh wins this season against a ranked opponent, and the Bears now hold a 12-3 record at Baylor Ballpark.
Baylor’s tendency to score in the first inning continued across all three games in the Oklahoma State series. For eight straight games the Bears earned at least one run in the first inning.
“It’s good to score early, but you don’t want to stop scoring,” Langford said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with, but fortunately our pitchers are able to do a great job and that’s all we need sometimes— one or two runs. That’s credit to our pitchers because we really didn’t score a lot all weekend other than in the first inning.”
OSU answered in the third inning with a tying run, but Baylor broke the game wide open again with two runs in the bottom of the third. The Bears added an insurance run in the sixth.
Saturday played out in similar fashion. Baylor scored in the first inning again. The Bears put in three runs this time, after senior second baseman Lawton Langford led off with a walk and senior shortstop Brett Doe was hit by a pitch. OSU nearly cleaned Langford and Doe off the bases on a potential double-play, but OSU shortstop Donnie Walton mishandled the ball and could not make the throw on the glove-to-hand transfer.
Another similarity from Friday occurred on Saturday in the fifth inning. The Cowboys scored just one run innings after Baylor opened the game with a run in the first. Baylor once again answered OSU’s run with its own in the bottom half of the frame, earning the same scoreline from the previous night, 4-1.
Game three was much different from anything the Bears experienced at home this season. Baylor scored in the first inning again, but it was interrupted when lightning struck. Immediately the umpires delayed the game. Initially, the delay was intended to last for a little over an hour, but ending up running almost four hours. By that time, more than half the fans had left.
Play continued for a couple innings, and in the top of the sixth, OSU got on the board with two runs. The first came thanks to successful squeeze bunt from OSU. The bunt fell close to Baylor’s freshman catcher Matt Menard. Menard had to make a split second decision to either throw out the runner going to third or the batter running to first. Menard weighed both options, but that was his downfall. Both runners safely reached base as Menard’s throw to first was too late.
“We could’ve gotten out of that inning with only run one if we just take the out on the bunt,” Baylor head coach Steve Smith said. “Matt didn’t have to look, and he did. We opened the door for two runs.”
That bunt did not bring a run home, but it loaded the bases for OSU, setting up two runners to come home that inning. After Baylor went hitless in the bottom of the sixth, the game was delayed again, but this time for rain.
“It was a long day, and those are tough conditions to play in, but you know [OSU] had to deal with them too,” Langford said after game three. “So, we’re not making any excuses.”
Both teams had to make adjustments with pitchers’ arms going cold, and players’ bodies simply not being able to go on and off for seven hours. Also, Baylor’s offense was abysmal, getting outhit by OSU 11-1 in game three.
Senior relief pitcher Josh Michalec came on to the mound in a tough situation— the Cowboys already led 2-1, runners on base in the ninth inning and only one out. The Bears needed Michalec to shut the door on OSU’s batters if they wanted any chance of rallying to get back into the game.
“It was tough, but it’s no tougher than any other situation I’ve been in,” Michalec said. “Honestly, I made good pitches early in the count, and ending up making mistakes. Ultimately, I got sloppy. Today was the day where I didn’t hold them in check.”
The Cowboys took game three with the same scoreline the Bears took the first two games, but Baylor won the series.
The Bears travel to Arlington to face UT-Arlington for the second time this season at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Baylor won the first meeting 5-2 at Baylor Ballpark.