Texas swatted three home runs on 16 hits in a 19-11 slugfest at Baylor Saturday. The big blow was Travis Tucker’s grand slam in the top of the second.
Yet Connor Rowe, No. 9 in the batting order, continues to carry the big stick for Texas this week. He accounted for four hits and three RBI Saturday. Rowe has driven in 10 runs the past three outings and now sports team-best 29 RBI on the season. He is also 20-of-50 this year with runners in scoring position.
RHP Cole Green raised his mark to 4-1 following a career-best 10 strikeouts in seven innings of work. The sophomore yielded just two earned runs on four hits and walked two. The Horns improved to 32-11-1 and, at 14-8-1 in league play, are virtually deadlocked atop the Big 12 Conference standings with the 13-8 Aggies. (Texas A&M took two-of-three from Dallas Baptist over the weekend in a non-conference match-up). Meanwhile, Kansas did Texas a huge favor by taking the first two contests at Oklahoma. The Sooners (33-14, 11-9 in Big 12) entered the weekend controlling their own destiny for the Big 12 regular season title but now face must-win series against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
The 19 runs are a season-best for Texas. The Horns scored in each of the first five innings and have combined for 43 runs in past three ballgames. Texas has now won 14 of the past 15 against Baylor. The Bears put up a six-spot in their last at-bat but have now dropped six straight conference games to fall to 26-19, 10-12 in Big 12 play. The Horns drew first blood with Brandon Belt’s two-out solo shot to right field in the opening frame. It was the junior’s sixth round-tripper of the season.
The Horns loaded the bags in their next at-bat, courtesy of a couple of walks while Tant Shepherd drew a free pass after he was plunked by an 0-2 breaking ball. Connor Rowe’s bloop single to left plated Preston Clark, setting the table for Tucker. The senior crushed a 3-2 fastball for his first grand slam as a Longhorn. Tucker’s second homer of the season was enough to send starting LHP Aaron Mueller to the dugout. RHP Shaun Tolleson forced the final two outs but only after Texas staked a 6-0 lead. Green surrendered his first hit in the Baylor second, but that’s when Gregg Glime put the Bears on the scoreboard with his two-out, two-run homer.
The Horns got those runs back in the top of the third. Preston Clark got things started with a leadoff double before Cameron Rupp became Texas’ third hit-batsman of the contest. With runners on the corners, Rowe’s two-RBI single to center, Michael Torres’ two-RBI single to right and Belt’s RBI single pushed the Longhorn lead to 10-2. It was the second straight inning where Texas batted around.
Baylor went in order in the home half of the frame, but the home run derby continued for the Horns. Rupp’s two-out blast over the left field wall spotted Texas a nine run lead. The Bears were guilty of seven errors during Friday’s contest in Austin and committed a couple more in the Longhorn fifth. Rowe reached second on an E6 throwing error before
Torres circled the bases on a three-base, center-fielding error. Umpires overruled what had been a two-run homer for Clark. Instead, his deep shot to left was called a foul (prompting Longhorn coach Augie Garrido to toss his cap on the field). Clark singled to load the bases before Brandon Loy’s sacrifice fly made it a 14-2 runaway.
With threatening skies, the only suspense was whether Texas could quickly put the bottom of the fifth in the record book to make this one ‘official’. Green recorded a three-up, three-down inning.
The Bears did not record their second hit until the bottom of the seventh. That’s when they pushed one across following Tucker’s bases-loaded fielding error (it was just his third miscue of the season). The Bears got a couple more with a wind-assisted liner to left. It was a 14-5 affair after the Bears collected three unearned runs.
But Texas got all three runs back — and then some — with five runs and four hits in the top of the eighth. Freshman Andrew McKirahan relieved Green in the home-half of the frame, retiring the side in order as a light rain began to fall.
Stayton Thomas made his ninth appearance of the season after McKirahan walked the bases loaded in the Baylor ninth with no outs. He allowed three earned runs, while Brandon Loy’s fielding error allowed an unearned run to cross the plate, before Thomas retired the final batter. The third game of the series is slated for 1:30 p.m. (CDT), weather permitting. Freshman RHP Taylor Jungmann is slated to take the mound.