BSB clinches series over No. 23 Duke, drops finale 4-2

Baylor baseball finished up the series against No. 23 Duke University with a loss on Sunday evening at Baylor Ballpark. Despite the loss the Bears still clinched the series 2-1. Grace Fortier | Photographer

By Michael Haag | Sports Writer

Baylor baseball closed out its series against No. 23 Duke University with a 4-2 loss Sunday evening at Baylor Ballpark. It was a doubleheader split, as Baylor won the morning contest 12-3, which clinched the weekend series overall 2-1. The Bears were out-hit 4-to-9 in the second contest of the day, and were outlasted by a two spot in the eighth inning.

On Friday, Baylor won the series-opener 4-2 with the help of fifth-year senior left-handed pitcher Tyler Thomas, who threw six shutout innings and allowed only one hit and two walks, while also throwing five punchouts. Thomas (1-1) extended his scoreless inning streak to 11 in his first win of the season.

In Sunday morning’s game, the first of the doubleheader, Baylor used a seven spot in the sixth inning to cruise to the 12-3 victory. Senior right-handed pitcher Jake Jackson (1-1) was fired up to get his first win as a Bear, putting in seven innings of work to the tune of four strikeouts. He only allowed one unearned run on four hits and three walks in his first win of the season.

“It means a lot. Obviously, getting that first one under the belt, now it’s time to go on a roll and pick up as many wins as we can,” Jackson said. “It felt really good. The guys gave me a ton of run support, so hats off to them. They supported me, so I wanted to give it all I got and support them. I leave everything on my sleeve – you’re going to know if I make a bad pitch and you’re going to know if I make a good pitch to strike a guy out. I’m not afraid to pitch with emotion and come off the mound with my kind of swagger. In my mind, that helps get the team’s energy going and keep us on the right path.”

The Bears (3-4) struggled to get its offense going in the evening contest, after posting a combined 16 runs in the first two games versus the Blue Devils (4-3). Senior left-handed pitcher Matt Voelker (0-1) was given the loss, while Duke’s senior right-handed pitcher Jimmy Loper (1-0) got credited with the win.

A lone bright-spot for Baylor was starting sophomore right-handed pitcher Will Rigney, who recorded his first start of 2022. He pitched a career-high four innings and threw six strikeouts, another career-high.

Despite the final game being a loss, sophomore outfielder Jared McKenzie was thrilled with the squad’s ability to bounce back in a new series after being swept by the University of Maryland.

“I think coming off this weekend, we put the weekend that we had against Maryland behind us, took what happened, and learned from it,” McKenzie said. “You look now, we still have a lot to work on, but to know that we can come out here and compete and be in ball games and win a series against a ranked opponent is really neat.”

Head coach Steve Rodriguez thought the team played well today, and said they had their chances to win the last game, but couldn’t make contact when they needed to.

“I thought our guys did a great job,” Rodriguez said. “They came out hot this morning. They did a really good job of getting it going. We hit some balls hard, we just couldn’t get the hit when we needed to with guys in scoring position and that’s just kind of the way it goes sometimes. I thought our guys did a good job getting on base and getting in scoring position, just couldn’t get the hits.”

Duke got on the board first with one run on two hits in the top of the first. Baylor responded by loading the bases in the bottom half of the inning, and plated the tying run off a walk.

The Bears then plated sophomore outfielder Kobe Andrade in the top of the fifth off a wild pitch to break the 1-1 tie. The Blue Devils leveled the score in the bottom half, as a couple wild pitches and hits tallied things at 2-2.

After a few well-pitched innings, Duke started rolling in the eighth. A Blue Devil leadoff solo shot over the right field wall put them ahead, and the following two batters singled to pose imminent danger. On its second of three pitchers on the side, Baylor walked a batter with the bases loaded to give Duke the two-run edge. Baylor made the second switch on the mound and stranded the remaining runners, weathering the storm to just two runs.

The Bears had slivers of hope, but couldn’t muster anything else in their two chances at-bat, notching the 4-2 success for the Blue Devils.

Baylor will travel to Houston for a midweek battle against Rice University, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Reckling Park. The contest comes before the Bears will participate in the 2022 Shriners Children’s College Contest for the second time in the last three years. In 2020, Baylor went 3-0 in the tournament, with wins against two top-eleven teams.

The Bears will play the Owls (2-5) in the first of five-straight road contests. Baylor is 6-12 all time versus Rice, the last contest in 2019 a 6-3 victory for the Owls.

McKenzie said he’s proud of the team’s performance this weekend and thinks beating a ranked opponent like Duke twice will help them heading into the road slate.

“I think coming out here and playing two [straight] games is always difficult,” McKenzie said. “To wake up early and come out, win the first, it’s a big statement [to] clinch the series early. It gives us some momentum going into next weekend against some bigger opponents.”