By Cameron Stuart | Reporter
LOS ANGELES- The No. 2-seeded Baylor baseball team suffered a defeat in the first game of the Los Angeles regional 3-1 to Loyola Marymount on Friday, making it the third straight year they have started the NCAA tournament with a loss.
The Bears offense, which led the Big 12 conference in batting average at .314, was held to just four hits, behind a baffling performance from LMU starter Codie Paiva. Paiva earned the win by going 7.2 innings and giving up just one run on four hits and striking out five.
Baylor head coach Steve Rodriguez kept his analysis simple.
“I didn’t think we pitched real well, I didn’t think we hit real well and I don’t think we played good defense,” Rodriguez said. “I thought we swung the bat well in a lot of capacities but we just couldn’t get runs across the board.”
Baylor came into the regional on a cold stretch, now having lost six of their last seven games, dating back to May 2. In the last three games, all of them losses, the Bears have mustered up just three runs.
After the teams traded runs in the second, a pitcher’s duel ensued. Paiva set down nine of the next 10 Baylor hitters while Bears starter Jimmy Winston did one better and retired each of the next 10 he faced.
The sixth inning was the turning point in the game. In the top half of the inning, the Lions scored twice after a leadoff walk was followed by an RBI double from LMU first baseman Trevin Esquerra, who advanced to third after a misplay in right field by sophomore outfielder Davion Downey. Lions right fielder Tommy Delgado then singled in Esquerra to push the LMU lead to 3-1.
With the top of the order coming to the plate for Baylor in the bottom half of the inning, sophomore shortstop Nick Loftin led things off with a walk. After a fly out by senior center fielder Richard Cunningham, junior catcher Shea Langeliers hit into a crucial double play to end Baylor’s best threat following their only run. According to Paiva, it was an important play for LMU.
“I would say it was one of the turning points in the game,” Paiva said. “I feel like that was a big momentum boost for us to get out of that inning unscathed.”
Winston was given the start for Baylor, while junior lefty Paul Dickens, the normal number one starter, is expected to go Saturday. Even in defeat, Winston turned in a quality start, going six innings and allowing three runs on four hits.
“I had to be ready to start today or tomorrow,” Winston said. “I just had to keep that mindset.”
Cunningham was one of five Bears hitters to go hitless on the day, ending the longest current hitting streak in the nation at 23 games, but Loftin managed to extend his own hitting streak to 12 games, now holding the longest active streak on the team.
Baylor will play an elimination game Saturday at 3 p.m. central time against either UCLA or Nebraska-Omaha at Jackie Robinson Stadium.