By Michael Haag | Sports Writer
In cold conditions, Baylor baseball dropped their home opener and first match of the series to the University of Maryland 4-0 Friday night at Baylor Ballpark. The Terrapins got off to a quick start offensively in the first inning and never looked back.
The Bears (0-1) were glad to be going against another set of uniforms in the Terrapins (1-0), with the last few weeks being full of matches against themselves. Head coach Steve Rodriguez said they were able to get back into game-mode and thought the team played well amid the loss.
“You’re playing against the same guys over and over again [in practice],” Rodriguez said. “That’s what’s great about these first couple of games is [to] kind of get that back into your mentality of how you’re going to do it. And our guys started to do it a little bit later than we wanted to, but overall it was a pretty good game.”
Offensively, sophomore outfielder Jared McKenzie led the way going two-for-three with a double and a walk. The Bears only connected on five hits as a unit, no one outside of McKenzie having more than one. McKenzie said the group will be able to move past this game, getting all the nerves out of the way in order to play their brand of baseball.
“It’s the first game,” McKenzie said. “Everybody’s got jitters and everybody’s up there just trying to see what they can do. And it’s a good game to just flush it all out and get it out of our system now and start playing our baseball game.”
On the mound, senior left-handed pitcher Tyler Thomas posted nine strikeouts in six innings, tying a career high. As a team, five Bears recorded 14 strikeouts in the contest, with each pitcher that came in recording at least one.
UMD started off hot in the top of the first with a leadoff double to left center. The baserunner then advanced to third after a wild pitch from Thomas. The Terps followed with a triple to bring in the first run, and an RBI groundout brought in the second run to give them an early two-run lead.
“[I] got banged up really early in the first inning, had to settle down,” Thomas said. “So I know going forward, got to kind of mellow out a little and come in and attack.”
Thomas bounced back and started to get a rhythm on the mound, as he went three up, three down in the top of the fourth.
“I’ve been there before,” Thomas said. “I wouldn’t say it was a struggle, more of a reflection back saying, ‘OK, I’ve done this. I know what to do.’ And I did it, I got out of it. [I] kept the score close to zero in the first inning and then put five zeros after that.”
Both teams struggled to generate much offensively for the next several innings and Baylor started to work in some different pitchers. When at-bat, the Bears stranded six potential runs.
“We’re one swing away from tying it up a couple times,” Rodriguez said. “Our guys are just battling, trying to come up with different approaches and doing the right things and we started hitting some balls hard and, we start to make some adjustments just [too] late.”
Nothing could close the gap for the Bears, as in the top of the eighth, Baylor’s fourth pitcher threw a wild pitch which brought a Terrapin home for the third run of the game. Following the run, UMD crushed a line drive to center field which plated the fourth and final run.
McKenzie and the group will look to bounce back and turn the series around, putting the opener behind them.
“It’s the first game you never know what can happen from there,” McKenzie said. “So we’re gonna go out and play play the game that we play.”
Baylor will be right back at it tomorrow for game two of the series against Maryland, the game set for 3 p.m. on Saturday at Baylor Ballpark. The match can be viewed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
“[It’s] a new day tomorrow,” Rodriguez said. “The biggest thing is you know, like I told our guys you know, we got to get rid of this thing. As soon as take the uniform off, come out tomorrow, then we’ll take care of Sunday.”