By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
For the second time this week, Baylor baseball got the comeback win, surging back in the eighth inning to take down West Virginia 6-3 Friday at Baylor Ballpark.
“That was great,” senior catcher Andy Thomas,, who drove in the tying runs with a single through right field, said. “We needed to show that we can absolutely compete in this league with everybody. The hitting and then the pitching – three runs on a Friday night is a great job by Tyler [Thomas]. He gave up a few in the middle there, and then the bullpen came in and did their job. It was great. It was exactly what we needed. I’m just really thrilled right now. It’s a really good win.”
The Bears struggled early against Mountaineer ace Jackson Wolf, who held Baylor scoreless for five innings, but were able to stay the course and put up a five-run rally to overcome a four-run deficit. Transfer shortstop Jack Pineda led off with a single and advanced to second on a short hit by freshman outfielder Jared McKenzie. Freshman second baseman Tre Richardson was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and after striking out earlier in the game, Andy Thomas brought Pineda and McKenzie home to chase Wolf from the game.
“When you’re facing a guy like Jackson Wolf and he’s doing his thing as long as he did, trust me as a coach you’re trying to be as creative as possible to try to create some chaos in his life out there,” head coach Steve Rodriguez said. “I hope it does give a little bit of energy to our guys and let them understand that we’re young but really competitive. We have a lot of talent, we just need some experience, and hopefully these games will give us that experience.
“Jackson was out there, and I’ll be honest, it was pretty humid today. I’m sure it’s taking a toll a little bit on everybody. He was out there for a long time, and I think he threw a breaking ball and I think it kind of backed up and went more toward Andy, and he was able to stick it into that four-hole and it was very beneficial for us.”
Jacob Watters took over for Wolf, who took the loss after seven innings, six hits, two walks and seven strikeouts. Freshman right fielder Kyle Nevin brought in Richardson with a bloop hit to right and a triple by right fielder Davion Downey completed the rally for the Bears.
“It’s hard. [Jackson Wolf]’s good,” Thomas said. “You wait for mistakes, honestly. And the mistake he made was not getting over on Jared’s ground ball. That’s what sparked it. Jack comes up with a nice hit, but leadoff hits are great, but you’ve got to capitalize. Thankfully he didn’t get over and we capitalized. So it all worked in our favor tonight, and we’re obviously thrilled.”
Baylor’s veteran pitching continued to do its job as fifth year senior lefty Ryan Leckich earned the win after relieving Tyler Thomas in the seventh, pitching 1.1 innings with two strikeouts. Tyler Thomas had another strong start, throwing 6.2 innings while giving up three runs on seven hits and three walks, and striking out five. Senior closer Luke Boyd earned his sixth save of the season, starting off the ninth with a flyout and shutting the door with back-to-back strikeouts.
“He’s unbelievable,” Rodriguez said of Boyd. “That’s what is really impressive. One of the best sliders in the country, and the command of the fastball and changeup, pretty impressive. Pretty impressive young man.”
West Virginia strung a couple hits and a stolen base together to get on the board in the third inning. Third baseman Kevin Brophe bashed a two-run homer in the fourth to give the Mountaineers a 3-0 lead.
Baylor finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth when Richardson hit a sacrifice fly to score Pineda, who led off with a double up the middle.
The Bears look to take the series Saturday, with game two scheduled at 3 p.m. Thomas said it was nice to finally start a Big 12 series with a Friday night win after tough losses against Texas and TCU.
“In the Big 12 so far, I think we’ve faced the three best Friday guys,” Thomas said. “We’ve seen Texas with Ty Madden, TCU with the big donkey lefty [Russel Smith] they have, and this guy tonight [Wolf]. The pitching has just been stellar in the Big 12 so far. But the young guys are starting to learn that you have to bring it day in and day out with every single hitter, every single pitch. You have to lock in. Yeah, we barreled some balls up, but luckily in the eighth we got some down.”