By Max Calderone | Sports Writer
The Baylor baseball team picked up an 12-8 win Friday over Memphis (11-24) away from home in Memphis, Tenn.
The Bears (16-16, 3-9), who are on a break from Big 12 conference play, started the three-game weekend series with a victory to return to .500 on the season. Junior center fielder Cole Haring led the offensive attack, going two-for-four with two home runs and four RBI.
Baylor jumped on Memphis starter Riley Cabral in the first inning as redshirt junior designated hitter Richard Cunningham singled with one out and was brought in on a two-run home run by sophomore third baseman Davis Wendzel. Back-to-back walks gave the Bears a runner in scoring position for freshman right fielder Davion Downey, who knocked in sophomore first baseman Andy Thomas with a single to center field that put Baylor ahead 3-0.
Memphis came back to score three runs in the bottom of the second inning off Bears’ right-handed starter Hayden Kettler, who settled back in to finish 5 2/3 innings of work, allowing five runs, only three of which were earned, on nine hits, striking out four Tigers.
Baylor put a four-spot up in the top of the third to go back in front 7-3. Wendzel started the rally with a double, followed by consecutive walks to Thomas and sophomore catcher Shea Langeliers. A fly ball off the bat of Downey allowed Wendzel to score on the sacrifice fly, before Haring went deep for the third time this season.
In the top of the fourth, freshman shortstop Nick Loftin took a 1-1 pitch out to left field for his third home run of the year and the Bears extended their lead to 8-3. The middle of the order kept the line moving as Cunningham singled and scored on a double from Thomas to give Baylor a 9-3 lead.
A sacrifice fly by Wendzel in the top of the sixth made it 10-3 Bears but Memphis struck back in the bottom half of the inning to pull within five runs. Freshman second baseman Ben Brooks got the big hit, a two-run single that chased Kettler from the ballgame. Right-handed reliever Joe Heineman left two Tigers on base, getting junior first baseman Kyle Ouellette to pop out to Langeliers in foul ground.
In the top of the seventh, Haring blasted a solo shot over the wall in the left-center gap, his second of the game, and Baylor moved its lead to 11-5. Heineman retired the Memphis side in order in the bottom half of the inning and brought the Bears back up to the plate looking for more.
Junior left fielder T.J. Raguse led off the top of the eighth with a screaming line drive off the top of the right field wall that went for two bases. Senior outfielder Levi Gilcrease came on to pinch run for Raguse and advanced to third on a wild pitch. However, the Bears would leave him there as Loftin walked, Cunningham struck out, and Wendzel bounced into a double play to end the inning.
Sophomore lefty Ryan Leckich ran into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the eighth, giving up one run on two hits before handing the ball off to senior right-hander Drew Robertson. A wild pitch from Robertson and an error by Loftin at shortstop scored two more for the Tigers and the lead was trimmed to 11-8.
Langeliers started the top of the ninth with a one-out double and moved up to second base on Haring’s two-out walk before junior second baseman Josh Bissonette provided the Bears with some insurance, singling on a full count pitch and driving in Langeliers to make it 12-8.
Senior closer Troy Montemayor came on to close it down in the bottom of the ninth inning. Though not a save situation, “The Mayor” was able to set down the Tigers in order, striking out two batters to cap off the victory.
Baylor and Memphis will be back in action Saturday for game two, beginning at 2 p.m. with the series finale to follow at 1 p.m. Sunday.