Baylor baseball rallies, overcomes five-run deficit to UIW

Coming back from a five-run deficit, Jack Pineda leads the Bears to victory with a three-run double on April 26 at the Baylor Ballpark. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Michael Haag | Sports Writer

Trailing by two, with a pair of runners on base in the bottom of the eighth and in the midst of a five-run comeback, Baylor baseball head coach Steve Rodriguez pulled his batters aside and gave them a message.

He told them if the University of the Incarnate Word hung them a curveball, then let it rip.

“He said, ‘As soon as he hangs it to you, you know exactly what to do,’” sophomore infielder Tre Richardson said.

That invigorating advice proved to be huge, as the Bears prevailed 8-7 over the Cardinals Tuesday night at Baylor Ballpark. The win marked the first time the Bears came back from down at least five since April 6, 2021 against the University of Texas at Arlington.

“To come out and win this ballgame and win it the way that we did was just a big sigh of relief,” Richardson said. “UIW played their tails off and they gave us their best with pitching changes and everything. The fact that we were able to persevere, especially after a tough start at the beginning of the game, the Grand Slam – [to] not give up at the end, that was big.”

The Bears (21-20, 4-11 Big 12) scored six unanswered runs to knock off the Cardinals (16-21, 6-9 Southland), who led 7-2 at the end of the sixth.

Amid the deficit, the home dugout never wavered in energy, constantly staying positive in hopes of generating some energy to come back.

“That was a big thing,” Rodriguez said. “We had some frustrating moments where we couldn’t get guys in from third base with less than two outs. We couldn’t make contact in different spots. But the dugout, they did a great job. They did a really great job just staying in it. Once again, sometimes energy can kind of push you through that barrier and tonight, I think it did.”

Senior left-handed pitcher Matt Voelker (3-5) earned the win, as he served 1.2 innings of perfect relief, adding a couple punch-outs as well.

The bats were rolling, as the team connected on 11 hits, highlighted by junior infielder Jack Pineda’s season-best four RBIs, which also tied a career-high for him.

“It felt good. The last couple of days have been hard,” Pineda said. “I was talking to [Baylor radio announcer] Derek [Smith] about the same thing, just keeping the faith on the team. We’ve had a lot of trials and tribulations early, but just to keep going and know that we’re going to get our chance. Some guys stepped up on the mound, and we were able to put together some good at-bats.”

UIW came out of the gates with a two-run crack over the left field wall at the top of the first. Baylor responded with a pair of solo runs across the next two innings to knot the tally at two apiece.

Nothing developed until the fifth when the Cardinals retook the advantage by one. The sixth inning saw UIW break away after a grand slam to center field to give them a 7-2 lead.

With their backs against the wall, the Bears regained life in the seventh after a couple walks and a pair of wild pitches from the Cardinals. After Baylor scratched one across, sophomore outfielder Jared McKenzie blasted a double to left center to bring two more home.

On came the eighth, where the Bears trailed by two. A leadoff walk mixed with back-to-back singles loaded the bases with no outs, bringing Pineda to the plate. Standing tall in the box, the New Mexico native ripped a bases-clearing double to give Baylor the one-run advantage.

In the top of the ninth, with UIW on its last leg, Voelker wasted no time, striking out the first two batters he faced. A last-effort lunge at the plate saw a fly out to right field, sealing the comeback effort.

Up next, the Bears will host No. 9 Texas Tech University for a three-game series, opening at 6:30 p.m. Friday. While getting the win is a great boost heading into a tough weekend, Rodriguez knows his group has more tall tasks ahead and can’t have slip ups.

“I’m hoping these environments and these opportunities for our pitchers are helping them to get ready for the weekend, but the offense did a great job,” Rodriguez said. “They were able to kind of lift us up today. But we have to continue to play better. We’re still making some mistakes, we’ve got guys out of position right now due to injuries. So we have a lot of work cut out for us on Thursday at practice.”