By Jeffrey Swindoll
Baylor baseball finally snapped its 6-game losing streak in the series finale against the Dallas Baptist University Patriots on Saturday with a 4-7 result. The Bears dropped the first two games due to uncharacteristic pitching from Baylor’s starters.
At this point, the Bears don’t expect the runs to come in large quantities on a consistent basis. With that kind of expectation, the pressure lies on the pitching staff possibly more than any other position unit on the field or at bat. Baylor started confidently with two runs in the first inning of game one at Horner Ballpark.
Thanks to senior outfielder Grayson Porter’s 11-pitch at-bat two-run homer in the first inning, the Bears had their run support, but the Patriots broke through the Bears’ pitching which is usually rock-solid in the early going.
Coming into game one, senior pitcher Brad Kuntz was 4-0 in starts this season. Kuntz gave up three runs in the first inning. Baylor head coach Steve Smith stuck with Kuntz for a couple more innings, hoping for a quick turnaround, but Kuntz gave up five more runs. Down 8-2, Smith took Kuntz off.
The Bears stalled until the 7th inning to turn the Patriots’ 12-2 blowout into a valiant comeback effort with a five-run seventh inning, but it fell short anyway. Dallas Baptist took game one 12-8, heading into Saturday’s doubleheader at Baylor Ballpark.
The Bears fell into a hole in game two. Justin like Kuntz in game one, junior pitcher Austin Stone gave up two runs in the first inning and was taken off the mound shortly after. However, Stone was relieved for an injury, not a lack of composure or execution.
It was unclear what exactly the injury was that Stone came out for. Smith said it was simply a precautionary measure he took after witnessing what he thought was an indication that Stone had pulled or torn something.
It was only a two-run game in favor of the Patriots after Stone left the game, but the Bears went scoreless for the first four innings and Dallas Baptist added to its total in that span to make it 5-0. The Bears responded well to make it a two-run game once again, but three runs in the fifth were the only runs they would score in game two.
Game two’s 6-3 defeat was the sixth loss in a row for the Bears, but the Bears have never lost at home twice in a row this season, and that trend did not change in game three.
Both of Saturday’s games started the same — two runs in first inning for the Patriots. This put the pressure on Baylor early. Having lost the first two games from similar circumstances of giving up early runs, it seemed it was going to be another limp offensive outing from the Bears and seventh loss in a row. Fortunately for the Bears, that projection was false, it did take some time to get those runs though.
After the Bears picked up a run in the fourth inning, and firm pitching from senior Dillon Newman, it was anyone’s game at a 2-1 scoreline. Baylor erupted in the sixth inning with six runs, pinning down the Patriots to a 7-2 deficit.
The game was not over yet though. DBU wriggled out two runs in the seventh inning to make it 7-4, and the ninth inning saw a play that could have broken the game wide open again. DBU bounced senior closer Josh Michalec’s pitch in the infield and rainbowed over the the mound. Michalec grabbed the ball with ease, and turned around to initiate what should’ve been a double-play.
Michalec almost made a mess of things though. His throw to second base hit the dirt in front of senior shortstop Brett Doe. Doe had one foot on the bag and stretched out his glove and leg to reach Michalec’s nearly botched throw. Doe cleaned up the play though, making the tag in time and successfully making the throw to first to end the game.
“It was unbelievable. The whole thing could’ve fallen apart on that play,” Smith said. “Brett bailed [Michalec] on that one.”
That clutch play was just one of many big plays by Doe in game three, including a diving catch in the infield and a couple on-the-run throws to first base off of short ground balls.
“It was one of the best games I’ve seen anybody play shortstop for us in a really long time,” Smith said. “He had a bunch of tough plays, and played extremely, extremely well at a time when he hadn’t been playing well. That’s really the mark of who you are as a person — how you respond.”
Recently, Doe has played with some sloppy form and his performances were nowhere near the standard he or Smith expect from him. Smith called time in the thick of game three to knock some sense into his team, but he specifically tried to shake up Doe in that mid-game chat at the mound.
“I struggled in [game two] and I’ve been struggling a little bit lately,” Doe said. “Coach Smith went into me a little bit, but you know he has to do that. We’re close enough to where he can say anything to me, so I responded, came out here and took care of business.”
The game three win was collectively acknowledged as a valuable win for the Bears by both coach and players. Snapping the six-game losing streak and getting a hard-fought come-from-behind win meant a lot to the Bears’ ball club as they move forward this season.
“Any step in the right direction is a good step,” Michalec said. “Friday night we didn’t win the game, but we fought back. Our offense kicked it in gear and realized we need to make something of this.”