By Michael Haag | Sports Writer, Video by George Schroeder | Managing Editor, LTVN
Baylor baseball salvaged its series against No. 21 Texas Christian University in a 7-3 success Sunday afternoon at Baylor Ballpark. It was a resilient effort, where TCU had chances to creep back into the contest but were shut down time after time.
“I think it just shows you a lot about who we are as a team,” Junior infielder Jack Pineda said. “We’re not going to give up and I think that looking at that scoreboard today, I mean there’s a lot of opportunities where we felt like we could let them creep back in and we answered with runs in the seventh and the eighth to stop their momentum. [I’m] really proud of the offense for that.”
The Bears (10-9, 1-2 Big 12 ) out-hit the Horned Frogs (14-5, 3-0 Big 12) 14-to-7 to avoid the sweep. Sophomore infielder Tre Richardson led the way in the box, recording three hits on five at-bats with two RBIs and two doubles. He gained assistance from three other Baylor hitters, who helped record six team RBIs.
The hitting performance satisfied head coach Steve Rodriguez, who loved to see the team’s execution at the plate.
“Even after the frustration of yesterday and then coming back and getting right back into it, just watching the offense continue just pound the baseball and keep working the base paths and executing it was just really fun to watch,” Rodriguez said. “You can just tell our guys were playing with a lot of freedom, a lot of excitement and their hard work has paid off.”
On the mound, sophomore Will Rigney took command of the zone to notch his first win of the season (1-0). He tied a career-high with 5.1 innings pitched and allowed zero runs on two hits.
Rigney clocked 82 pitches in the outing, more than he normally pitches after the injuries he has faced over the years. Even with his reduced pitch count, he felt good today and thought he could have stayed out there longer.
“I think I could have gone six [innings],” Rigney said. “But they[coaches] just said it was time so I’m not going to argue with them. But I felt fine. I was kind of running out of gas a little bit, felt good going into the fifth. I haven’t done [that] in a long time before last week, so it’s good.”
Even with Sunday’s refreshing win, the Bears dropped Friday and Saturday’s contest. The opening game of the series saw a 3-0 loss in a cold hitting performance from Baylor, who only posted two hits. It was another quality Friday night start for senior LHP Tyler Thomas (3-2), who allowed two runs on six hits in six innings of action.
The Bears suffered a heart-breaking 11-9 loss in extra innings Saturday. Baylor recorded a season-high 17 hits to go with three home runs, led by Richardson’s career-tying four hit effort. After leading 8-5 heading into the ninth frame, the Bears fumbled away the lead and lost in the 11th inning.
In Sunday’s contest, Baylor put runs up in a hurry, as redshirt junior first baseman Chase Wehsener plated Pineda to start things off. The Bears piled on two more in the second, highlighted by an acrobatic slide at the plate by Pineda. The highlight-reel play was instinctual for Pineda, who was confident he was safe the whole way through.
“Yeah, I thought I got in there,” Pineda said. “Just trying to fight for every run. So it’s kind of – instincts took over I guess. I don’t practice that.”
A few innings later saw Richardson score off back-to-back wild pitches, following his double to left field.
TCU finally cracked into the score column in the seventh, but only mustered one run in the frame. The Bears answered with a run off another Wehsener RBI single. Soon after, Wehsener made his way around the diamond after a double down the right field line to increase the lead 6-1.
The Frogs erupted for two solo home runs in the eighth to cut the Baylor lead to three runs, but it was all they would get the rest of the way.
The “Double Play Duo” hooked each other up in the ensuing side to put the Bears on top by four runs. Baylor rolled on to win the game after a ninth inning jam, escaping with the 7-3 win. Sophomore RHP Hambleton Oliver recorded his first save of the season in the ninth inning effort.
Rodriguez was proud of how the team persevered through the frustration of the first two losses.
“Well, I mean we should have won yesterday and we’re able to execute some things and then we come back today and then right off the bat on first inning boom, here we go,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what it’s going to take and you don’t let a team know that you were frustrated yesterday, you have to come back and keep punching and let them have to deal with it.”
Before returning to conference play, Baylor stays home for a midweek clash against the University of Texas at San Antonio, first pitch set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Baylor Ballpark. The contest can be watched on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
Rigney and the team will hope to build off the momentum of Sunday’s win to help heading into next week’s games.
“Yes, it does [give us momentum],” Rigney said. “I mean, obviously, we let one slip away yesterday, but just getting one and not getting swept on opening weekend – that’s huge. I look forward to next week.”