By Jeffrey Swindoll
The Bears claimed it first win in six games after a revival of the team’s offensive power Tuesday night at Baylor Ballpark, beating UT-Arlington 10-7.
After getting swept by Texas State over Easter weekend, Baylor (13-19) needed a boost in team morale. Head coach Steve Smith said the team’s practice session on Monday was probably the biggest factor into the Bears’ return to form Tuesday night.
“We had a good day of work [Monday] offensively, and I don’t say that often,” Smith said. “[Monday’s practice] was a different day that I haven’t seen this group of guys have in a practice. You usually don’t see it during the season, but I thought there was definitely some carryover [against UTA].”
The win turned out to be a convincing one for the Bears Tuesday night, but it started out looking like Baylor would be having more midweek mediocrity. Freshman pitcher Troy Montemayor gave up five hits and three runs in the first two innings. Smith said he was having second thoughts about Montemayor as his started after the breach of defense early on.
“Montemayor had fooled me,” Smith said. “I thought he was ready for that start, but I guess it was nerves. That’s never how he pitches, but he got out of it.”
Junior right-hander Kody Hessemer relieved Montemayor in the third inning, pitching three innings and giving up just one run and in the fourth inning. Hessemer allowed four hits overall in his winning effort, giving him a 2-1 record in 2015.
Baylor’s hitting was too effective for a rocky start to bring them down. The Bears earned 12 hits Tuesday night, equal to UT-Arlington’s 12 hits.
Freshman outfielder Kameron Esthay’s three-run home run proved to be the play that tipped the scales in Baylor’s favor.
“I’d say the guys in front of me had really good at-bats and they got on base of course. I was just ready to hit anything really,” Esthay said. “That was the same with the first home run I hit [this season].”
UT-Arlington came close, but never recovered after Esthay’s homer. The Bears followed up their four-run fifth inning by adding two more runs in the sixth, making it 9-4 with just three innings to play
Healthy contributions to the offense from senior third baseman Duncan Wendel, sophomore shortstop Hayden Ross, freshman second baseman Steven McLean and designated hitter West Tunnell put the pressure on UT-Arlington’s pitching staff.
“It was very big [to get a win] after getting swept by Texas State obviously,” Wendel said. “To get 10 runs and start hitting again; everybody did their job. It was good to see. I think every single person had the approach of ‘I want to hit this hard, hit it the other way.’ I didn’t the ball particularly well, but they all fell through. You’ve got to have some of those nights sometimes.”
As the rest of the midweek games have played out, Smith rotated in a big chunk of his pitching staff throughout the course of Tuesday’s game. Baylor saw six pitchers for them on the mound, including senior Joe Kirkland, freshman Kyle Ott, sophomore Case Smith and senior closer Sean Spicer. Spicer earned his fourth save of the season after Case Smith gave up two runs in the eighth inning.
The Bears are 4-5 in Big 12 Conference play, having won every series except against TCU. Though the season has exposed weaknesses in Baylor’s young roster, the Bears are still right in the thick of the conference standings. Nothing is out of reach for them at this point.
“We know we’re in the middle of it, but we also know each team coming up is going to be pretty hard,” Wendel said. “We’re just going to take it one game at a time and go from there.”
Baylor travels to Lubbock this weekend to face Texas Tech at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.