Despite late inning heroics, baseball drops tight series to No. 12 Texas

Freshman infielder Kolby Branch (13) watches the ball head toward the outfield after making contact with his bat during Baylor baseball’s series finale against No. 12 University of Texas Sunday at Baylor Ballpark. Grace Everett | Photographer

By Foster Nicholas | Sports Writer

Baylor baseball hosted the top team in the Big 12, No. 12 University of Texas, and gave the Longhorns a run for their money at Baylor Ballpark.

Entering the weekend, the Bears (13-23, 5-10 Big 12) had already won two conference series and looked to add another against Texas (26-12, 8-4 Big 12). Head coach Mitch Thompson and Baylor found production from several areas, but fell just short of a series win, as they salvaged one game on Saturday.

With the series on the line, junior right-handed pitcher Will Rigney took the mound on Sunday for the Bears. Rigney found his groove early by striking out four batters in the first two innings. The contest was scoreless moving into the bottom of the second.

The bats picked up Rigney in the bottom of the second and found the scoreboard first, even without recording a hit. Texas walked three batters, hit another, and then some situational hitting plated one more. By the end of the second, Baylor held a 2-0 lead in the rubber match.

The first sign of trouble for the Bears came just half an inning later. The Longhorns loaded the bases with no outs and pitching coach James Leverton came out to talk with Rigney. He took a breath and stepped back on the mound. The junior fired strike after strike and even though one run came in to score on a ground out, he retired the next three batters he faced and limited the damage.

After trading zeros, Baylor still led 2-1 heading into the fifth. Rigney, who had been dealing, hit a rut. The inning started with a single, stolen base and a wild pitch that placed a runner on third with no outs. The righty allowed two more hits and a runner reached base on an error in the inning, but Rigney was able to escape allowing only two runs.

Despite a few road bumps, Rigney supplied the Bears with a strong start for the weekend. He finished with a season high in total pitches (83) and strikeouts with nine. He tosses for 5.0 innings and only allowed three runs on six hits and two walks.

Heading to the bottom of the inning, the Baylor bats still hadn’t recorded a hit. Junior infielder and outfielder Cole Posey and sophomore infielder Hunter Teplanszky both reached base for the first time thanks to a pair of free passes with one out. With the walk, Teplanszky extended his on-base streak to 24 consecutive games.

With two outs in the inning, junior right-handed pitcher and outfielder Cole Tremain drew a walk and loaded the bases. Texas made a call to the bullpen and after the pitching change, sophomore first baseman John Ceccoli struck out swinging and the green and gold were held scoreless again.

Junior right-handed pitcher Grant Golomb took over for Rigney in the sixth and shut down the Longhorns. Still searching for a hit, the Baylor bats found a string of good luck in the following half inning.

Freshman catcher Walker Polk pinch hit for redshirt freshman outfielder Gavin Brzozowski to lead off the inning. Polk smoked a hot shot to third and for the first time all weekend, Texas made an error and Polk reached base. Junior catcher Harrison Caley followed Polk and slapped a single into center field, as the Bears finally found a hit.

But the green and gold wouldn’t settle for just one hit.

Sophomore infielder Austin Stracener looked to bunt on the next pitch and beat out the throw to first base. With the bases loaded and no outs, freshman outfielder Caleb Bergman stepped into the right-handed batters box. Bergman roped a single to his counterpart and one run came in to score. Junior catcher Harrison Caley tried to score from second as well, but was thrown out trying to advance.

The Longhorns recorded another out but the Bears weren’t done just yet. Teplanszky drilled a two-run double off the top of the wall in center field and Baylor took a 5-3 lead.

However, the three-run inning was matched by the Longhorns in the top of the seventh. Golomb found himself in trouble and was removed after 1 1/3 innings. He allowed three runs, only two were earned, on two hits and a hit batter.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hambleton Oliver came in for the Bears and limited the damage. Texas added one more in the top of the eighth on a solo home run and once again the Baylor bats looked to come back from behind, now trailing 7-5.

In the bottom of the eighth, Bergman worked a walk and advanced to second base to start the inning. After Posey and Teplanszky each struck out, freshman infielder Kolby Branch spanked an RBI into right field. Branch saw nine pitches in the at-bat but the inning would end before another pitch was thrown as Branch was picked off at first base.

Oliver trotted back out to the mound in the top of the ninth and although he loaded the bases, he didn’t allow a run to score. In his lone appearance of the weekend, Oliver threw 2 2/3 innings, allowing only one run on two hits and three walks. He also struck out a pair.

Looking for more late-inning magic, the Bears came back up to bat down 7-6. Tremain led off the inning with a walk, but was thrown out trying to steal second base a few pitches later. No one else would reach base, and Baylor dropped the heart breaking rubber match.

In the series finale, the green and gold worked 12 walks and were hit by a pitch twice, compared to only five hits. Over the entire series, Baylor walked 26 times and was hit by a pitch on six different occasions. Golomb (1-3) took the loss in the rubber match.

“There’s decisions that I probably made that I have to do a better job at,” Thompson said. “It’s just frustrating to come up one run short. I appreciate the guys’ effort and I thought they played really hard. They competed hard and they expected to win.”

The green and gold will be back in action Tuesday against Sam Houston State University. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Don Sanders Stadium in Huntsville.

Foster Nicholas
Foster Nicholas is a junior from Parker, Colorado, majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in film and digital media. In his fourth semester with the Lariat, he is excited to level up Baylor Lariat radio, do play-by-play for thrilling home games, and continue to feature some great Baylor athletes in print.