By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
After dropping the final series of the regular season to No. 3-seeded Oklahoma State last weekend, the No. 2-seeded Baylor baseball team bounced back with an 8-2 victory over the No. 7-seeded Oklahoma Sooners on Wednesday afternoon as they looked to defend their Big 12 Tournament title.
But where they chased OU starter Cade Cavalli with two home runs, the Bears were held hitless through five innings by Cowboys’ starter Jensen Elliot and were shutout 5-0 on Thursday night.
According to head coach Steve Rodriguez Baylor didn’t take the opportunities they needed to against Oklahoma State.
“I thought Jensen [Elliot] had a great game. Their offense executed early on in the game and we didn’t,” Rodriguez said. “I told our guys that in games like this you are going to have to take advantage of opportunities when you get them in regard to offensive execution. They were able to do it and we didn’t.”
With stellar pitching, solid defense and bats blazing, the Bears began their 2019 tournament run pretty much how they ended their championship run last year. On the mound, junior starter Paul Dickens threw six scores innings against the Sooners, allowing six hits and one run while striking out six batters. Rodriguez said that Dickens’s performance was beneficial in saving the bullpen for later in the tournament.
“After going through the entire tournament last year, being able to get to the championship day, you see the taxing effect that it has on your pitching staff,” Rodriguez said. “Having [Dickens] go out there and do what he did was pretty special for us just to make sure our bullpen is going to be intact.”
On the offensive side, junior catcher Shea Langeliers and junior designated hitter Andy Thomas both hit two-run bombs off of Sooners starter Cavalli who had only given up two home runs the entire season.
Baylor’s lineup didn’t fare as well against Elliot in game two. The only base runner the Bears had before the fifth inning against the Cowboys was junior third baseman Davis Wendzel who reached on an error and advanced to third on another error and a failed pickoff attempt but was left stranded. Baylor then managed only two hits against Elliot and one off of reliever Peyton Battenfield.
Elliot said that facing Baylor last weekend helped him prepare his game plan this time around.
“I had a good approach going into the game because I got to see them last weekend. I knew that if I executed my game plan, I’d be successful,” Elliot said. “Tonight, I happened to do that and my defense worked well behind me. I recognized some of their swings from last weekend and it was good to see that.”
Despite giving up five runs, including a home run to OSU designated hitter Colin Simpson, redshirt sophomore Jimmy Winston, who started against the Cowboys, struck out a career-high seven batters in just his second loss of the year. Winston along with redshirt sophomore Daniel Caruso and sophomore lefty Tyler Thomas combined for 15 strikeouts on Thursday night. It was the first double-digit strikeout game since April 26 at TCU.
Baylor will face the Horned Frogs on Friday night. The Bears swept TCU in Fort Worth during the regular season. The Frogs suffered a loss to the Cowboys to open the tournament but set three tournament records in their 15-3 run-rule victory over Oklahoma when they scored 14 runs in the fourth inning.
Senior center fielder Richard Cunningham and the Bears remain confident in Baylor’s resiliency going forward.
“We get to play TCU, one of our near-town rivals and a fun foe to play against, and we’re here in Bricktown playing ball,” Cunningham said. “New opportunity, new day tomorrow.We will go one game at a time and we’re looking forward to it.”