By Michael Haag | Sports Writer, Video by Braden Murray | Broadcast Reporter
Baylor baseball notched its first series sweep of the season, this time over East Tennessee State University with a 7-4 win Sunday afternoon at Baylor Ballpark. ETSU’s closest opportunity came Saturday in a tight 8-7 contest, but the other two games weren’t threatening, with Baylor winning Friday 15-1.
The Bears (16-11, 2-4 Big 12) were fueled by a four-run third inning to attain the success over the Buccaneers (17-8). Head coach Steve Rodriguez was most pleased with the approach from the group, coining it as a “worker mentality.”
“I was just really happy with how our guys approached the whole weekend,” Rodriguez said. “They came out with a worker mentality, and they laid some really good swings on things. I think our guys did a really good job of competing against a really good program.”
Sunday saw a masterful effort from sophomore right-handed pitcher Will Rigney (2-0), as he turned in a career-high six innings of action with another career-best eight punchouts. He only allowed two earned runs on six hits across 85 pitches.
To be able to turn in an effort like that after what Rigney has been through is mind-blowing to him, and he gives all the grace to his coaches for trusting him.
“Oh, it’s unbelievable. I can’t thank the coaches enough for everything they’ve done. Me being out of the game for three years and them having the trust in me, I just appreciate it,” Rigney said. “Most coaches probably would’ve shut me down or not taken my word for it and I always try to be honest with them and I just can’t thank them enough. Coach [Jon] Strauss had a great game plan; [I’m] appreciative of him.”
A one-run shot to left field gave ETSU the early advantage for the third-straight game, but Baylor responded in a hurry with a two-run single from Nevin to swing the lead in their favor.
Being able to execute at the plate early in games is key to Caley, who said practicing for it all week helped on the weekend.
“Yeah. I think it’s just getting after it,” Caley said. “We’ve practiced all week long, trying to jump on these guys in the first inning and I thought we did a good job of that this weekend.”
The Bears continued hitting strong in the third inning with a four spot on four hits to extend their lead 6-1. The Bucs posted two runs over the next four innings but still trailed.
Baylor added one run of insurance in the eighth that was matched by a last effort solo home run from ETSU. It would not be enough, as freshman right-handed pitcher Mason Marriott closed out the final side to get his fifth save of the season along with the 7-4 win.
With a good turnout all weekend. Rodriguez gave much of the credit to the fans at the ballpark. He said they play a huge factor in the team’s success at home.
“I can’t thank everybody enough for coming out and supporting this group. They’ve done a great job,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been playing hard against some really great competition and getting big crowds here, having fans cheering us on, it does help. That means a lot to our players, they love seeing that. The more people that come out, it just gives them an extra boost and gets us a series sweep.”
Up next, the Bears will take a short trip north for a midweek match against Dallas Baptist University, set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Horner Ballpark in Dallas.