Bears fall to Longhorns in conference opener to snap win streak

Freshman center fielder Jared McKenzie reaches second on a hit to right field during Baylor's 5-3 loss to Texas Friday. DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor

By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor

Sometimes it only takes one bad inning to break a streak and that’s just what happened to Baylor baseball Friday night, as the Bears fell 5-3 to No. 10 Texas in the first Big 12 game at Baylor Ballpark since 2019. The Bears’ 10-game win streak was snapped as they recorded their first home loss of the season.

“We showed grit the whole night,” said senior catcher Andy Thomas. “Couple plays defensively hurt us, they had a big inning, we tried to scrap back but just probably not [in] enough time.”

The Longhorns took advantage of a couple of throwing errors, four walks and a hit-by-pitch to put up a four-run second inning. Texas third baseman Cam Williams then drove in shortstop Trey Faltine to add some insurance in the third. Only one of the Horns five runs was earned.

Despite taking the loss, Baylor lefty Tyler Thomas came back out to shut down UT for two more innings, including a 1-2-3 fifth in which he struck out the side. Although he gave up five walks and three hits, head coach Steve Rodriguez said he was proud of the way his starter persevered.

“I thought he really competed,” Rodriguez said. “Even after that bad inning, he went out there and continued, and I thought it was pretty impressive what he did. You know, they weren’t taking great swings on him, they had a couple hook-barrel doubles, but overall I was really pleased with what he did.”

The Bears bullpen kept Texas off the board for the rest of the game as second-year freshman Hambleton Oliver relieved Tyler Thomas in the sixth, throwing the next 2.2 frames, giving up just one hit and one walk and striking out three. Super senior lefty Ryan Leckich closed the last 1.1 innings.

Baylor got off to a hot start with a double to right field by freshman center fielder Jared McKenzie. The Round Rock native then came around to score on a triple by transfer second baseman Jack Pineda, who was safe at third after a review. But the Bears were up against the formidable Ty Madden, who quickly composed himself to strike out the next three batters and leave Pineda stranded.

The Texas ace earned the win after pitching 6.1 innings, giving up two runs (both earned) on four hits and three walks while putting up nine strike outs.

“I mean, he’s a potential first-round pick for a reason,” Rodriguez said of Madden. “He’s trying to get in a groove in the game just as well. We ambushed some fastballs and we go double, triple and then he wakes up and realizes, ‘Okay, here we go, if you want to play this game.’ And he did — he competed his butt off. He strikes out the next three guys when we have a guy standing on third base. You got to tip your hat off to the guy. That’s what first-round guys do.”

Baylor added another run in the bottom of the third after McKenzie was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Back-to-back singles by freshman shortstop Tre Richardson and Andy Thomas brought McKenzie home once again.

The Bears tried to spark a rally in the eighth, as Andy Thomas singled on the first pitch he saw and came around to score on an error. Baylor put on a scrappy effort to load the bases on a walk to true freshman pinch hitter Cam Caley. The Bears had the guy they wanted at the plate in McKenzie, but the freshman grounded out to UT first baseman Zach Zubia to send Texas back to the dugout.

“That’s the situation we want,” Andy Thomas said. “But people got to remember too, Jared’s young. This was Jared’s first Big 12 game… We just got to remember that our team’s pretty young. Yeah, we’re hitting .350 as a team but six out of our nine guys haven’t seen conference pitching before.”

Baylor will look to even the series at 3 p.m. Saturday at Baylor Ballpark. The may have lost their streak, bit not their can-do mentality.

“We beat ourselves tonight,” Thomas said. “I don’t think they beat us. I think that if we don’t have those errors and a few less walks and a couple base hits fall, I think we beat that team six, seven to one, maybe. But credit to [Texas]. They did a good job exposing our weakness and our errors and they came out on top tonight. Tomorrow’s going to be a different day.”