By Jeffrey Swindoll
The final stretch of the regular season began for Baylor baseball, but the Bears failed to start on the right foot, falling to Sam Houston State 4-2 Tuesday at Baylor Ballpark.
“I thought we played pretty well,” junior outfielder Adam Toth said. “We made a few mistakes, but we outhit them. I think it was a positive thing. Even though we lost, we played a good game.”
After Kansas’ stunning weekend sweep at Baylor Ballpark, Baylor baseball needed to garner momentum to be in the best possible situation to achieve its last team goal at this point — the Big 12 tournament.
Crucial, veteran players for Baylor like senior pitcher Brad Kuntz and senior second baseman Lawton Langford picked up injuries in the last few outings for the Bears. Baylor head coach Steve Smith adjusted his lineup.
Baylor struck first against Sam Houston. The Bears struggled to get base-runners home in the last few games.
Up 2-0 early, the Bears were feeling confident in the offense. Sophomore pitcher Drew Tolson got his third mid-week start in a row, coming into Tuesday with a two-game win streak.
Tolson pitched seven innings in his last outing, but after the Bears’ pitching staff suffered a couple of injuries, coach Smith changed things up and had him pitch five innings Tuesday night to save his arm for the weekend.
“They were sitting fastball, and when I threw it, they were able to hit it,” Tolson said. “I did better with my off-speed, but they just sat fastball and hit it pretty well.”
Senior left-hander Bobby McCormack came on to relieve Tolson at the start of the sixth inning. McCormack hadn’t seen much playing up to this point and he did not disappoint. McCormack pitched the remaining four innings and gave up two hits and no runs. Sam Houston State picked up seven hits and four runs against Tolson, and that proved to be enough for the win.
“I was really, really proud of the way we threw the ball,” Smith said. “Drew was pretty efficient with his pitches and was able to get through five, and you couldn’t ask absolutely anything more out of Bobby. Bobby was outstanding.”
Tuesday was a non-conference, mid-week clash, and the Bears are running thin on pitchers, but they will have to make due with what the have at the moment to advance their season towards the Big 12 tournament with a legitimate shot.
The Bears travel to Norman, Okla. this weekend to face the Oklahoma Sooners. There is no denying this Baylor ball club has not taken care of business on the road this season. Baylor totaled 11 hits off the Bearkats, but Smith said he doesn’t know what to make of his hitters getting on base, but rarely ever coming home. Something certainly needs to change for the Bears offensively.
If the Bears plan to come out of Norman with a series win, they will have to overcome their antagonizing season-long trend of road woes.