By Nathan Keil | Sports Writer
Baylor baseball dropped two out of three from No. 6 TCU over the weekend. After dropping a 9-4 decision on Friday, the Bears erupted for a 16-5 win on Saturday before falling 8-5 in Sunday’s finale.
In the opener on Friday, the Horned Frogs got to Baylor senior starter Nick Lewis early and often. TCU got two in the first on a bases loaded walk and a sacrifice fly following a lead off double by Austen Wade. The Horned Frogs got a triple and another sacrifice fly in the second inning, extending the lead to 3-0.
TCU put the game away with a five run fourth inning, chasing Lewis and getting to the Baylor bullpen.
Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez said that the walks played a major factor in kickstarting the TCU offense.
“When you give a team as talented as TCU is free bases, it’s going to come back to bite you at some point,” Rodriguez said.
The Horned Frogs did it with small ball and clutch hitting, connecting on bases loaded singles and taking advantage of a Bears’ miscue in the field. TCU added one final run of insurance in the bottom half of the eighth.
Baylor tried to rally, first with a run scoring single by senior first baseman Aaron Dodson in the sixth inning. The Bears got three consecutive singles to start the eighth inning, loading the bases with nobody out. Junior second baseman Steven McLean then brought in a run with a hit by pitcher and junior infielder Tucker Johnson scored the final two Baylor runs with a single.
Lewis (4-4) took the loss, allowing eight runs on eight hits with five walks and three strikeouts in just four innings.
TCU freshman starter Nick Lodolo earned the win (4-1), throwing six innings while allowing one run on seven hits and seven strikeouts.
Lodolo said that he needed to have an aggressive approach to jumpstart the Horned Frogs against the Bears.
“I knew I had to set the tone tonight for the weekend,” Lodolo said to the Star-Telegram after the game. “I hadn’t been pitching my best. So tonight, I just came out attacking.”
On Saturday, the Bears looked like a completely different team as the bats erupted for 16 runs on 19 hits, including four home runs.
Baylor scored runs in all but the eighth and ninth innings, tallying four runs in the second and three runs in the fourth, fifth, and seven innings.
Rodriguez said the difference was the approach the Bears took to the plate on Saturday.
“We did a good job of getting ourselves into good counts and hitting some pitches that we normally foul off or roll over,” Rodriguez said. “Everybody went up there with good swings all day.”
The Bears took advantage of two two-out walks from TCU starter Mitchell Traver (2-1) before senior designated hitter Matt Menard brought in the first run on a single, his first of five hits on the day.
Menard finished with five hits in six trips to the plate while driving in four runs and scoring three times. The one time he was retired, he laced a rocket one hopper to the TCU third baseman who made a nice play to record the put out.
Freshman third baseman Davis Wendzel led off the second with his first of two home runs in the game, sophomore outfielder Richard Cunningham, freshman catcher Shea Langaliers and Menard added RBI singles, chasing Traver and putting Baylor ahead 5-0.
Dodson added a two-run home run in the fourth Cunningham a solo shot in the fith and Wendzel, a three-run blast in the seventh to round out the Bears’ use of the long ball.
Wendzel finished three for four at the plate with four RBIs, while Dodson was two for five with 3 RBIs and Langaliers was two for three with four runs scored.
Junior pitcher Montana Parsons (3-2) was just as good as Baylor’s offense, stifling the Horned Frogs’ bats.
Rodriguez credits Parsons for going out and setting the tone for the offense out there on the mound.
“Montana [Parsons] was impressive, being able to hold that type of offense to just two hits. He should be proud of what he did today,” Rodriguez said.
He went 6 2/3, allowing two runs on two hits with three walks and five strikeouts. He did not allow a hit until the fifth inning.
TCU managed four runs in the seventh and one in the ninth but that was all as Baylor evened the series.
TCU didn’t let Saturday’s shellacking keep them down in Sunday’s finale, as the Horned Frogs got to Baylor freshman pitcher Cody Bradford (4-3) early for three runs and seven hits, chasing him after three innings.
The Horned Frogs used the long ball in the third inning, as senior infielder Cam Warner and junior catcher Evan Skoug both connected on solo home runs.
Baylor battled back with two runs in the fourth on RBI singles from both Menard and Dodson.
TCU once again used a home run in in seventh from Wade and four more runs in the eighth to put away the visiting Bears and take the series.
Baylor did add three runs in the ninth, with Cunningham’s double scoring two of the three runs.
Rodriguez remains optimistic after the Bears’ weekend and their ability to keep battling.
“We were one swing away from taking this series,” Rodriguez said. “ I’m excited that we continued to fight all the way through the last out and like the direction we are going as a team.”
TCU Senior pitcher Brian Howard (6-2) picked up the win, tossing 5 2/3 innings for Horned Frogs. TCU improves to 30-8 overall and 11-4 in the Big 12. It will host Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday before traveling to Lubbock for a huge weekend series with Texas Tech (33-10, 9-6).
Baylor (24-16, 6-9) will head home for a mid-week game with Texas State beginning at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at Baylor Ballpark.