Simmons’ return not enough as Baylor baseball falls to Abilene Christian, 9-8

Junior outfielder Hunter Simmons (9) rounds the bases following his leadoff solo home run to the opposite side of the field in the top of the fifth inning of Baylor baseball's midweek contest against Abilene Christian University Tuesday at Crutcher Scott Field in Abilene. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Foster Nicholas | Sports Writer

The Baylor bats showed up to play, but the baseball team came up empty in the end, 9-8, against Abilene Christian University Tuesday at Crutcher Scott Field in Abilene.

The Bears (15-30) looked to rally and bounce back from a winless four-game homestand with the midweek contest. Head coach Mitch Thompson handed the ball to fifth-year senior right-handed pitcher Blake Helton to take the mound.

The Baylor bats instantly gave Helton support in the top of the first. Junior infielder Cole Posey singled to leadoff the game, then scored later in the inning when junior outfielder Hunter Simmons slapped an RBI single up the middle.

Simmons was back in the lineup for the first time since April 14 against then-No. 14 University of Texas in Waco. He wasted no time driving in a run and helping out the green and gold after returning from injury.

“Well, it’s good to have Hunter Simmons back in the lineup,” Thompson said. “He lengthens out our lineup obviously.”

However, Helton struggled in the bottom of the first. He allowed four-straight baserunners to start off the game, and three runs came in to score. Trailing 3-1 after one, the Bears responded.

Sophomore catcher Cortlan Castle started the inning with a single, then sophomore first baseman John Ceccoli walked. They each advanced on a sacrifice bunt, and Castle was brought home after Posey notched his second single of the night.

With one run already across in the inning, sophomore infielder Hunter Teplanszky grounded out and Ceccoli trotted home. Freshman shortstop Kolby Branch wrapped up the inning by clubbing a two-run home run over the left field fence.

Leading 5-1, Helton shutdown the Wildcats (27-16) in the bottom of the second but gave up three more runs in the third. The right-handed pitcher gave up four hits and a hit-by-pitch with two outs in the inning to allow the runs to score and ACU to take a 6-5 lead.

Junior right-handed pitcher Grant Golomb came in to pitch after Helton walked the only batter he faced in the top of the fourth. Helton struck out four batters but struggled through 3.0 innings, allowing seven hits, three walks and six runs.

Castle threw out a runner trying to steal for the first out of the bottom of the fourth inning, but after that, the Baylor defense didn’t help the man on the mound. First, a runner reached base on a throwing error by Posey. After a hit-by-pitch, junior right-handed pitcher and outfielder Cole Tremain missed a fly ball and two unearned runs came in to score.

Abilene Christian led 8-5 heading into the fifth inning. Simmons cleared the fence on a solo shot to leadoff the inning, which marked his fourth home run of the year. Redshirt freshman outfielder Gavin Brzozowski, who batted in the designated hitter spot, singled, Tremain doubled and Castle drove a run home with a well-placed ground ball to cut the ACU lead to 8-7.

Tremain was left stranded at third base, and all scoring would cease until the bottom of the seventh inning. Golomb went a career-high with almost four innings and only allowed one hit and two unearned runs while striking out three Wildcat batters. With two outs in the inning, junior right-handed pitcher Brett Garcia took over on the mound.

Garcia walked the first batter he faced and gave up an RBI double to the next, before getting out of the inning. The green and gold matched the run in the top of the eighth when Teplanszky roped an RBI double to right-center field.

Freshman left-handed pitcher Ethan Calder relived Garcia after he walked the only batter he faced in the bottom of the eighth. Garcia only recorded one out and gave up two walks, a hit and a run in his time on the mound.

Calder also only recorded one out and gave up a hit before Thompson turned to the bullpen again. Junior right-handed pitcher Hambleton Oliver walked the first batter he faced but came back and recorded two big strikeouts to send the game to the ninth inning.

Abilene Christian went to its closer, leading 9-8 heading into the final frame. Simmons led off the inning with a single, his third hit of the game. Brozowski popped out to shortstop for the first out of the inning, then Tremain singled to center field, his second hit of the day, advancing Simmons to second base.

Sophomore infielder Austin Stracener came in to pinch run for Simmons at second but Castle grounded into a fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning. With Stracener only 90 feet away, sophomore first baseman Casen Neumann flew out to left field, and the hope for a rally was all but over.

“Offensively, we did some good things but we didn’t play the game well enough,” Thompson said. “We made two big mistakes that led to a bunch of runs and we have to get to the point where we can overcome some of that. I’m disappointed in the loss. The guys fought and played hard, but little things added up and mattered. I thought Golomb threw the ball well tonight, I thought he had a really nice outing, so it’s a tough loss.”

Even though four Baylor batters recorded multi-hit games, Helton (0-6) took the loss as the Bears fell 9-8, extending the team’s losing streak to five.

The Bears have a quick turnaround with another midweek matchup against Texas A&M Corpus Christi University. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Baylor Ballpark.