By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
After a tough stretch that saw Baylor baseball drop six of its last seven games, the Bears hit the reset button Tuesday night with a 4-2 win over Texas State at Baylor Ballpark.
“I’ll be honest with you — it was a grind,” head coach Steve Rodriguez said. “We had some mistakes. We didn’t execute a couple times. We got picked off on a bump play. We didn’t do a couple things offensively correct, but we continued to grind through it and found a way to win. And that’s what good things do.”
The Bears were outhit 8-6 but managed to keep the Bobcats from coming home, stranding eight runners while the pitching staff totaled eight strikeouts as a unit.
After third-year sophomore Brooks Helmer shutout the Bobcats in the first inning for his first outing of the season and first start of his career, Baylor put up three-straight hits for a 2-0 lead at the end of the first frame. Second-year freshman infielder Tre Richardson slashed the first triple of his career to drive in second-year center fielder Jared McKenzie and transfer infielder Jack Pineda.
Second-year freshman reliever Hambleton Oliver took over for Helmer, throwing the next two innings, giving up two runs on four hits while tallying two strikeouts.
Texas State clawed back into the game when center fielder Ben McClain hit a sacrifice fly to right field, allowing first baseman Cole Coffey to put the Bobcats on the board. Catcher Bryce Bonner tied things up with a single in the third inning, driving in left fielder Jose Gonzales.
Redshirt junior righty Jacob Ashkinos picked up his third win of the season with three scoreless innings, allowing just two hits while striking out one.
Baylor retook the lead in the fifth when sophomore transfer Antonio Valdez scored Richardson on a hit through the four-hole into right field for a 3-2 lead. Second-year freshman left fielder Kyle Nevin smashed the first home run of his collegiate career to start the sixth inning and cap the scoring off for the Bears.
“First pitch of the at-bat, first pitch of the inning, new pitcher, [I] could guess he was coming in with a heater and turn on it,” Nevin said. “[It] felt good … Just trying to get back into the win column.”
Super senior lefty Ryan Leckich came out in the seventh, giving up one hit, and got the first out of the eighth, wrapping up his outing after fanning three in 1.1 innings.
The Bobcats threatened in the eighth with a bases-loaded situation, as senior righty Logan Freeman took over for Leckich. Second-year junior Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo came up with a swift inning-ending double play to send Texas State back to the dugout. Super senior closer Luke Boyd then picked up his fourth save of the year with a scoreless ninth, giving up just one walk and striking out two. The game ended with an infield popup to third base.
Rodriguez said this was a game where he wanted his younger players, particularly in the pitching staff, to learn from the older guys.
“I want some of these younger guys to see what some of these older guys are doing and how they’re doing and understand the success they’re having now is because of the grind that they put in when they were younger,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not going to happen really quick for some kids. We want it to, and I know they do too, but sometimes it takes a while.”
The Bears will continue their home stand with a four-game series against North Carolina A&T starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Baylor Ballpark. Rodriguez expects both teams to play hard and for Baylor to continue taking the game step by step.
“If they can simplify the game, execute and throw strikes and allow the team to get a chance to win, that’s the biggest thing. And that’s what we did tonight,” Rodriguez said.