By Michael Haag | Sports Writer
In consecutive series, Baylor baseball salvaged the final game, this time a 16-8 win versus the University of Oklahoma Sunday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park in Norman, Okla. The Bears dealt with heartbreak and adversity throughout the weekend, dropping the first two matches, but snagged the last contest over the Sooners to avoid the sweep.
Well before first pitch of the final game of the series, head coach Steve Rodriguez wrote “Discipline over emotion” on the lineup card for the players to see. Sophomore infielder Tre Richardson said this helped level their approach and proves what this team is capable of doing when they do so.
“It just means just sticking within your approach and doing what gets the job done,” Richardson said. “He talked about it in the circles, taking pitches in the dirt and then taking the same exact pitch the very next pitch that he throws, staying within your approach and still taking it; Instead of swinging at it because you want to be the hero. When we get out of the mindset of everybody wanting to be the hero and just passing the bat back as we did today I mean, we see what our talent can do.”
Rodriguez was pleased with how the team maintained a similar approach to their game and trusting their ability, even after falling in the first two games.
“What I was really happy about was they took what they did yesterday and just kept pounding the ball off of a really good pitching staff who came out throwing bullets out there,” Rodriguez said. “Our guys did a really good job maintaining some good discipline and with great at-bats and [I’m] really proud of these guys for what they did today.”
Baylor (12-11, 2-4 Big 12) connected on 13 RBI’s to pair with a five-spot in the seventh inning to help knock off OU (14-8, 2-1 Big 12) on Sunday. It was a season-high 16-runs scored for the Bears on the day.
The bats were hot all around, but none like Richardson who went 4-of-4 at the plate, one double short of the cycle, and notched a career-high five runs. Those five runs are the most scored by a Baylor player in a single game since Darryn Sheppard scored five times against Stony Brook on Feb. 27, 2016. Richardson credited it to keeping the same approach toward the successful hitting day.
“It’s just staying with the same approach,” Richardson said. “Friday and Saturday I got a few balls that I hit hard that didn’t fall and then there were a few that I didn’t really hit too hard, [and] ended up not getting hits for them. And then today, I was just doing the same thing as I have been doing the entire weekend and today they all fell for me.”
Richardson knew he was close to achieving the cycle, but said it didn’t phase or alter his approach at the plate.
“Just trying to hit the ball as hard as I can,” Richardson said. “I trust my ability enough that if I get it in a gap I’m scoring but a situation if it says to go to third for the triple, then I’m going to go to third for the triple. I don’t really care too much about the heroics of it. I’m just trying to get the job done and get as many runs.”
In the opening game of the series, the Bears threatened late but came up short in a 5-3 loss to the Sooners. In the eighth and ninth innings, Baylor had the bases loaded but failed to tie the contest. It was another solid Friday start for senior left-handed pitcher Tyler Thomas (3-3), who tallied nine punchouts in 5.2 innings of work, only allowing three runs.
Game two saw brutal heartbreak for the Bears, who held a 5-1 lead in the eighth, but gave up two grand slams for the Sooners to come away with the 9-5 success. In his starting debut, sophomore left-handed pitcher Kobe Andrade gave Baylor a quality start, as he pitched five scoreless innings and only allowed two hits.
In the series-finale, the Bears never let off the gas, cruising to the 16-8 win fueled by 14 hits and assisted by five Sooner errors. Baylor struck first in the opening side and answered every time OU tried to regain control.
Sophomore left-handed pitcher Cam Caley came in for relief and attained the win (1-0), while senior right-hander Jake Jackson earned his first save in the green and gold, dishing out the final three innings of action to put the Sooners away.
The production at the plate – while highlighted by Richardson’s great day – was shown throughout the lineup, with guys at the bottom of the order making some huge plays. Rodriguez said this is what is going to be instrumental in the team’s ability to succeed in future matches.
“Harrison Caley coming up later in the game with big 2RBI, two-out hit. Those are the things that are going to continue to propel us to where we want to go,” Rodriguez said. “As long as guys keep taking good at-bats – especially off of really good pitching – those are the things that are going to matter later on.”
The Bears head back home for a non-conference contest against the University of Texas at Arlington, first pitch scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Baylor Ballpark. The game against the Mavericks (8-15, 2-4 Sun Belt) can be watched on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.