By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Baylor baseball continued its hot play Tuesday morning in the opening game of the 2018 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Okla.
The Bears got a dominating performance from Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, sophomore lefty Cody Bradford.
Bradford, who missed his scheduled start against the Sooners back in March due to a hip flexor injury, made the most of his outing against fourth-seeded Oklahoma.
Bradford (7-5) struck out a career-high 11 batters in 7 2/3 innings of work. Bradford allowed just four hits and two walks. He also hit a batter, but all seven Sooners, who reached base, were stranded as Baylor posted a 4-0 shutout to advance in the Division One winner’s bracket.
Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez said he knew his team was ready to play as he watched them prepare this morning at an early team breakfast.
“I think the biggest thing was the kids waking up at 5 a.m., breakfast at 5:45—just the attitude they had at breakfast told me I had a great feeling that we were going to be ok,” Rodriguez said. “It was awesome watching them just get ready for the game and kind of wake up. They came out here really energized and ready to go.”
The Sooners managed a pair of base runners in both the third and fourth innings and also got a one out double in the eighth, but was unable to come up with the clutch they needed them.
Bradford said it was after coming up with a key strikeout in the fourth that he was finally able to relax on the mound.
“It took me a little bit to just get comfortable, it’s a big stadium, there’s a lot of people, it’s a big moment so my adrenaline was going again. I just had to calm down,” Bradford said. “I guess it was the fourth inning when there was runners on second and third, got into a full count and came up with a big punchout, so that’s when I was able to take a deep breath and just calm down some.”
Baylor managed some early offense to back Bradford, getting two runs in the top of the first inning, taking advantage of two defensive miscues in the opening frame.
On the first pitch of the game, freshman shortstop Nick Loftin hit a groundball to sophomore shortstop Brandon Zaragoza, but it took a bounce up and hit off his shoulder for an error. Then on a pickoff attempt, junior Jake Irvin misfired with the throw, allowing Loftin to advance to second base.
Redshirt junior Richard Cunningham then hit an RBI single to left field, getting Baylor on the board 1-0.
Cunningham then stole second base and scored on All-Big 12 first team catcher, sophomore Shea Langeliers’ RBI single into right-center field.
The Bears then tacked on some insurance, scoring a run in each of the final two innings.
In the eighth, junior outfielder Cole Haring, who had three hits in the game, singled to open the inning. He then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, to third on a wild pitch and scored on a second wild pitch in the inning, staking Bradford to a 3-0 lead.
Then with two outs and nobody on in the ninth, it was Haring once again coming through for the Bears, lifting a solo shot to left field.
Senior Drew Robertson entered with two outs in the eighth and recorded the final four outs of the game, allowing just one walk in collecting his first save of the season.
The fifth-seeded Bears will meet the eighth seeded Kansas Jayhawks, who upset the top seed Texas 3-2, at 4 p.m. Thursday.