By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
Baylor baseball suffered another close loss to No. 10 Texas Saturday, dropping the series to the Longhorns in a 4-3 nail-bitter at Baylor Ballpark. The Bears didn’t give anything away this time around, however, forcing the Longhorns to make contact and earn their runs in what was a clean defensive game for Baylor.
But the Bears just weren’t able to execute the rally.
“That’s what’s great about baseball,” head coach Steve Rodriguez said. “You can struggle early and then all you need is one hit or one great at-bat to tie it up and you can be a hero of a game. For me, I just like the way our guys competed. Once again, we had a great part of the order to come up there with the tying run in scoring position, and we just couldn’t get it done.”
The Bears fought back for a rally in the ninth as right fielder Davion Downey homered over left to cut the deficit to one. First baseman Chase Wehesener hit a two-out double to center to put the tying run on second. Just as it had been the night before, it came down to center fielder Jared McKenzie to finish things up for Baylor. Texas closer Aaron Nixon killed the Bears’ comeback with three straight strikes to the freshman.
Redshirt senior Jimmy Winston took over for sophomore starter Blake Helton in the fifth, taking the loss after allowing two runs on six hits and one walk while striking out six. Rodriguez said Winston had a solid outing despite giving up two runs in the sixth.
“The margin of error is so small when you don’t have a ton of velocity,” Rodriguez said, “sometimes he’s going to make a mistake, and that just happens.”
UT starter Tristan Stevens got the win, pitching six innings while giving up two runs on seven hits while putting up six strikeouts. Nixon earned the save while giving up just one run.
Texas struck in the first when left fielder Eric Kennedy singled to right field and came around to score on a double to center by center fielder Mike Antico. The Bears responded immediately in the bottom of the inning with a lead-off single McKenzie. Senior catcher Andy Thomas drove in McKenzie with a big double to left field.
After a scoreless second and third, the Longhorns retook the lead with a two-out home run by third baseman Cam Williams. But just like in the first, Thomas answered by blasting the first pitch he saw over the right field wall, keeping things tied at two.
“It felt great. My swing feels really locked in right now. I feel like I’m handling the bat really well,” Thomas said of his 2-for-4, two RBI day at the plate. “It’s all nice and whatnot, but winning’s the only category that matters. And right now, we’re 0-2 in conference and that’s really frustrating. Stats are great. Our team can hit and all that, but we need to win. That’s the category that matters.”
Texas put runners on base against Winston in the sixth with a single and double. Designated hitter DJ Petrinsky gave the Longhorns a two-run lead, driving a 2-2- pitch to right field for a 2-RBI single and the Texas pitching staff did their best to shut the Bears down for the rest of the game.
Baylor will look to salvage the weekend, closing the series out with a 1 p.m. rubber match on Sunday. Senior righty Hayden Kettler will have the start while the Horns will send out redshirt sophomore righty Kolby Kubichek. It’ll be another tough contest for the Bears as Kubichek comes into the game averaging 13 strikeouts per nine innings.
“It’s the Big 12. This is what we’re expecting,” Rodriguez said. “I told our guys, ‘Hey, every weekend from now on is going to be like this, so you better get used to it and you better understand that paying attention to detail, making sure you know what you’re doing, is on point.”