By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
If you want to know what it’s like being a hometown hero, ask Jared McKenzie. After going 0-for-5 against Texas A&M, the second-year freshman outfielder led Baylor baseball in a 12-6 bulldozing of No. 17 Auburn Saturday at Dell Diamond in game two of the Round Rock classic.
McKenzie lit the fire right away, bashing a home run on the second pitch of the day, giving Baylor a 1-0 lead in the first inning. He kept the power going in his next at-bat, crushing a two-run bomb to the same place in the third inning, scoring designated hitter Antonio Valdez in the process to make it 3-0. The Round Rock native finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs.
“Overall, I thought our offense did a good job yesterday, and today we just kind of continued doing that,” head coach Steve Rodriguez said. “I thought they did a great job competing at the plate, forcing the ball in play and getting some key RBIs and some good swings with guys in scoring position. I thought they made some pretty good adjustments as the game went on, so that was really good to see.”
Compared to Friday night, the Bears looked like a completely different team. They committed only one error but played a clean defensive game otherwise. Offensively, Baylor put up 15 hits and left only five on base. Along with McKenzie, Valdez (2-for-3, two RBI and a run), senior third baseman Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo (2-for-5, two RBI, one run), second-year freshman left fielder Kyle Nevin (3-for-5, one RBI, one run) and JUCO transfer second baseman Jack Pineda (2-for-4, two runs) contributed for Baylor at the plate.
Fourth-year junior lefty Tyler Thomas was stellar in his second start of the season, grabbing his first win while putting up three scoreless frames and striking out three while giving up only two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks. The Keller native didn’t allow a hit until the third inning.
“Tyler Thomas did a phenomenal job getting us deeper into the game, giving us a good chance to win,” Rodriguez said. “He did the same thing last week and just did a really good job minimizing walks, keeping hitters off balance, being able to command both sides of the plate with his stuff and that was really good to see.”
Fifth-year senior Jimmy Winston took over in the sixth, giving up only one run on three hits and three walks while striking out three over three innings.
Auburn’s Richard Fitts took the loss, giving up seven runs on nine hits and only managing two strikeouts as the Bears weren’t taking the bait with his fastball and changeup.
Baylor scored two runs in the fourth thanks to a sacrifice hit by fourth-year junior Davion Downey and an RBI single by Valdez to score senior catcher Andy Thomas and Nevin.
Auburn finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth. Tyler Miller reached first on a catcher’s interference call, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on a single by outfielder Kason Howell.
The fifth inning was a wild one, as the Bears put up four more runs as McKenzie scored on a passed ball after singling to start the inning. Andy Thomas, who had walked, and Pineda then scored on a hit by Downey who then scored on a single to center by Valdez.
The Tigers managed to slip another past Tyler Thomas in the bottom of the fifth. Baylor came back with three more runs on the sixth.
For the first time since the second inning, Auburn managed to hold the Bears scoreless in the seventh and kept them off the board for the rest of the game with lefty reliver Peyton Glavine on the mound. Miller bashed a home run straight to center to make it a 12-3 game going to the ninth.
Sophomore transfer righty Travis Hester came out to close the ninth, getting a strike out and lineout before walking back-to back guys and allowing two hits for the Tigers to score three runs in an attempted rally. Senior righty Logan Freeman came out of the bullpen to finish the game, walking two to load the bases but striking out pinch hitter Garrett Farquhar looking to close the chapter on Auburn.
The Bears will wrap up the Round Rock Classic at 5 p.m. Sunday facing a familiar foe in Oklahoma for a nonconference matchup.
“I want to see them compete. I want to see them come after it just like they did today, you know, put your best foot forward,” Rodriguez said of Sunday’s matchup. “If you’re going to come out here, you’re going to do some stuff offensively, go ahead and do it. Take some good swings on good pitches. Defensively, we got to continue to make the plays like we did today and pitching, we got to continue to get strikes. If they’re going to beat us, we’re going to have to force them to beat us. We can’t give them anything for free.”