By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
Baylor baseball might as well faced a complete unknown after not meeting up with the Oklahoma Sooners since May 22, 2019 in the Big 12 Tournament. The Bears fell 9-3 to OU in the final game of the Round Rock Classic Sunday night at Dell Diamond.
After two innings, the Sooners chased true freshman Cam Caley from the game once the lefty gave up six runs, all earned, on six hits, three walks and two hit batters despite striking out two and throwing 37 strikes out of 70 pitches.
Redshirt junior Jacob Ashkinos took over for Caley, throwing three innings and allowing only one run on five hits and two strikeouts. True freshman Grant Golomb relived Ashkinos, giving up two runs on a hit and two walks. Freshman righty Zac Childers and senior lefty Ryan Leckich combined for two scoreless before senior closer Luke Boyd wrapped up the game for Baylor.
Head coach Steve Rodriguez said it was important to get some of the young pitchers time on the mound in order to get their nervousness out of the way.
“The big thing for us right now in regards to our young arms is they need to understand they need to come in and just do what they are capable of doing,” Rodriguez said. “They need to come in and command the baseball and command the zone. They need to get those initial energy rushes out. That kind of stops them from being able to do well.”
The Sooners got to work quickly, taking advantage of a hit batter and a walk to lace together back-to-back RBI hits from left fielder Diego Muniz and third baseman Brett Squires. The Bears responded right away in the bottom of the inning. Second-year freshman centerfielder Jared McKenzie singled and advanced on an error by short stop Brandon Zaragoza on a fielder’s choice hit by second-year freshman shortstop Tre Richardson. McKenzie advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by senior catcher Andy Thomas and scored on a single by second-year freshman leftfielder Kyle Nevin. Richardson then tied things up on a sacrifice groundout from transfer second baseman Jack Pineda.
Oklahoma redshirt freshman Jake Bennett kept the Bears from scoring for the next four innings, finishing his outing after five frames with two unearned runs on seven hits, a walk, a hit batter and two strikeouts.
A scoreless second was highlighted by Thomas’s pickoff of first baseman Tyler Hardman at first to send the Bears to the plate. Oklahoma had a stellar defensive play of their own when Squires made a diving catch on the third base line to send McKenzie back to the dugout.
The Sooners tacked on four runs in the third inning. OU second baseman Conor McKenna singled to center field and scored on an RBI single by Squires. Muniz then scored on a an RBI single by right fielder Kendall Pettis. Zaragoza followed with an RBI single to score Pettis and catcher Justin Mitchell, who had also been hit by a pitch. Oklahoma added another run in the fifth when designated hitter Jimmy Crooks scored Pettis to widen the Sooners’ lead to 7-2. Two more runs in the sixth put Baylor in a 9-2 hole.
In the bottom of the sixth, Baylor cut into the deficit when redshirt sophomore first baseman Chase Wehsener scored on the throw after advancing on an error. The Bears threatened in the bottom of the eighth but left junior right fielder Davion Downey and JUCO transfer Antonio Valdez stranded.
Baylor couldn’t get anything going in the ninth with OU closer Jason Ruffcorn on the mound.
McKenzie and Pineda were named to the Round Rock Classic All-Tournament team. McKenzie hit .333, going 5-for-15 but racking up four RBI and scoring four runs thanks to two moonshots in game two of the tournament. Pineda hit .417, going 5-for-12 with four runs, a double and an RBI.
Baylor will play at Baylor Ballpark for the first time since March 11, 2020 when the Bears host Sam Houston at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“I think it was great for us to be able to come in here and experience this, and hopefully we can continue to get better with the Tuesday game,” Rodriguez said.