By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Eighth-seeded Baylor baseball came into the 2022 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship with nothing to lose, looking to prove people wrong in hopes of continuing its season. After being shut down by Oklahoma State University sophomore right-handed pitcher Justin Campbell (9-2) in an 11-1 run-rule loss, it’s a bitter end to a season that had potential.
“He was different [today],” Rodriguez said. “We faced him six days ago, and he was a completely different guy. [His] breaking ball was a little loopy. His fastball command wasn’t where it was as of today. Today, he wouldn’t let our hitters breathe. It was really impressive.”
Baylor was eliminated from the conference postseason tournament Thursday morning at Globe Life Field in Arlington after just two games — the final loss an 11-1 run-rule rout at the hands of No. 4-seed OSU.
The Bears (26-28, 7-17 Big 12) were frozen at the plate by the Cowboys’ (37-19, 15-9 Big 12) Campbell, who hurled the entire seven-inning game, allowing one unearned run on three hits while dishing out 10 strikeouts and walking none.
“Today, we just got beat,” junior infielder Jack Pineda said. “He was really good. He deserves a lot of credit. There were some miscues that happened, but I don’t know how much we were going to get going offensively with the way he was throwing.”
Across the two days, sophomore outfielder Jared McKenzie had a brutal stretch at the plate. He was a combined 0-of-7 with four strikeouts and failed to get on base. McKenzie, an All-Big 12 Second Team selection, struggled in the box, as it was the worst way in his eyes to finish the season.
“[I] didn’t get my foot down on a few pitches that I missed,” the Round Rock native said. “That hurt me. [It] left a sour taste in my mouth for the year, but that’s baseball.”
The first frame was quiet, but OSU scratched across an unearned run in the bottom of the second. Senior righty Jake Jackson (4-5), who took the loss on the day, limited the damage to one and worked out of a bases loaded threat.
The Bears responded in the following side, tying the contest 1-1 after a heads-up play from sophomore outfielder Jacob Schoenvogel. He singled to third base and reached third on a throwing error, and he was plated off sophomore infielder Alex Gonzales’ ground out.
The even tally wouldn’t last long, as OSU posted five runs across the next two innings, highlighted by a 447-foot three-run shot to left center in the bottom of the third. A pair of fourth inning runs brought the Cowboys ahead 6-1.
“I really liked our chances,” Rodriguez said. “If we could get guys on base, get Campbell in the stretch, we knew that we could actually get a chance. We just couldn’t get the offense going. [When the score was] 4-1, that’s nothing, but being able to keep it there, that was our goal. We just weren’t able to.”
Several pitching changes from the Bears filled the next few innings, but OSU maintained pace, posting another five runs. These came in the sixth and seventh innings and would ultimately end the contest, as the 10-run-rule went into effect.
With the early exit and a rough season, Baylor is a long shot to make the NCAA Regionals, likely putting an end to the year. After being the 65th team out of the 2021 tournament, the squad is crushed to not be able to bounce back like it had hoped.
“Anytime you get this feeling, it sucks,” Pineda said. “It is a little bit different this year, knowing that we don’t really have to watch the [selection] show on Monday. I guess everything is motivation in the failure.”
Regarding his job security, Rodriguez said that his job is “to coach baseball” and that it’s Baylor vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics Mack Rhoades’ decision to make.
“That’s Mack Rhoades’ decision,” Rodriguez said. “My job is to coach baseball. His job is to pick coaches.”