No. 11 Baylor baseball team splits two-game series with Louisiana Tech

by dentonramsey

No. 11 Baylor baseball team splits two-game series with Louisiana Tech

By Denton Ramsey, NCAA Sportswriter/Big 12 Fans Baylor Correspondent

 

WACO, Texas – With the Bears leading the Bulldogs 6-4 heading into the ninth inning on Tuesday, March 4 at Baylor Ballpark, it was almost assumed that the BU baseball team would be improving to 8-0.

Unfortunately for the Baylor Bears (8-1), the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (7-4) rallied – scoring five runs in the top of the frame to snap BU’s impressive undefeated start, walking away with a 9-6 victory.

“They got the timely hit in the ninth inning, and that’s the name of the game,” Baylor Head Coach Steve Smith said. “I don’t think that either one of us played the game particularly well.  I imagine that ball was fair by inches (Louisiana Tech’s go-ahead double in the ninth inning), and that sometimes will be the difference in a game.”

After falling behind 1-0 after the top half of the first inning, the Bears crossed home plate four times in the bottom of the first to take a three-run lead into the second inning.

“They helped us; we got a couple of hits in the first inning, but we weren’t driving the ball,” Smith said. “I don’t know if we even had an extra-base hit in this game [all eight hits were singles], but I give their guy credit. Their guy [Alan Knotts] kind of gathered himself and really pitched well. Then they gave us a left-handed look [with Landon Braud] and he did a nice job, and then the [Bulldogs] closer [Aaron Lorio] has obviously got plenty of ammunition at the end.”

With Baylor’s Tim Matthews pitching the first 3.2 innings of work, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits, Craig Fritsch entered the picture for the Bears – pitching four innings of scoreless baseball, allowing just two hits and striking out four.

“[Craig] Fritsch was every bit the equal of anybody that threw tonight, and we needed it,” Smith said. “We weren’t scoring and they weren’t scoring.”

With the Bears and Bulldogs deadlocked at 4-4 midway through the seventh inning, Baylor tacked on a run in the bottom of the seventh – with home base being stolen by Beamer Weems to break the tie – and added another in the eighth to take a 6-4 lead heading into the top of the ninth inning.

“It was just a timing play and we timed it perfectly,” Weems said. “We caught them off-guard and it worked. It was actually cool [to steal home], but it would’ve been a lot better if we would’ve won.”

Despite the two-run cushion, the Bulldogs scored five times in the ninth before holding the Bears scoreless in the bottom of the frame to end Baylor’s superb start to the season.

“They take some hacks, but they were not any different than what we expected,” Smith said in regards to Louisiana Tech’s offense. “They’ll be a good offensive club.”

Things began on shaky ground when Baylor closer Nick Cassavechia led off the ninth inning with a walk – and before anyone knew it, Louisiana Tech had scratched across five runs to take a 9-6 lead.

“The biggest thing about being a closer is coming out and throwing strikes, and especially with a righty up there,” Cassavechia said. “Coming out and walking the first guy is how you dig yourself into holes.

“I still don’t feel like my slider is there yet, but that’s no excuse. I have other pitches and I do other things besides throw a slider. It’s not on, but it’s a long season and I’ll have plenty more chances to bounce back.”

The Bears did just that the following day, holding on in another wild finish – this time resulting in a 7-6 Baylor victory.

“We’re just playing games and trying to find ways to win them,” Smith said. “We’re having to find ways to win right now because we’re not doing the job on the mound, in terms of throwing strikes, and we’re really not swinging the bats with a whole lot of authority up and down the lineup. For the most part our defense has been very good. We’ve got way better arms than what we have shown in terms of throwing strikes.”

Baylor, just as they had the night before, had a four-run inning against the Bulldogs, breaking out of a 1-1 tie and taking a 5-1 lead heading into the third inning.

After an off night at the plate, Aaron Miller reestablished his dominance – crushing his fourth homer of the season against the Bulldogs on Wednesday evening in Waco.

“The difference you can feel between two days is crazy,” Miller said. “Yesterday I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, and today was just one of those days when I felt good and felt dialed-in. He gave me a pitch that I could handle, and I took care of it.”

With the Bears holding a 7-4 lead through eight innings of play, Baylor turned to Erik Forestiere – who had just worked a scoreless eighth – to finish things off.

“There’s a little bit of uncertainty at the end of the game with who’s going to do what and when,” Smith said. “There is no dialing-up three strikeouts. I would’ve been just fine with [Erik] Forestiere finishing the game. He should have; [Mace] Thurman should have. That didn’t happen, so we moved on to the next guy.”

Unfortunately, Forestiere allowed Louisiana Tech to score twice before being replaced by Miller – who worked to two batters before handing things over to BU closer Cassavechia.

“Nick’s [Cassavechia] not Nick right now, and I don’t think that’s a secret, but he’s still pretty good,” Smith said. “He’s got big-time heart, he’s got big-time guts and composure, and I would not have put him out there if I didn’t think that he was the guy to get the job done. I’ve seen him win some games in some pretty unbelievable situations that were much more unbelievable than tonight.”

Cassavechia did a great job bouncing back after a shaky outing the day before, facing four batters and allowing no runs on one hit to preserve the Baylor victory while garnering his fourth save of the season.

“No matter who is on the mound it’s not really too calm when it’s the top of the ninth and the bases are loaded with a couple of outs,” Miller said. “There’s not really anybody else that we’d rather have out there than Nick [Cassavechia]. Nick’s proven himself day in and day out.”

With the split of the two-game series with Louisiana Tech, Baylor improves to 8-1 on the season and will return to the diamond – this time on the road – for a three-game series with Mississippi State beginning Friday, March 7 at 4 p.m. and concluding on Sunday, March 9 at 1:30 p.m.

After the stop in Mississippi, Baylor hits the road for Tulsa for a two-game series with Oral Roberts on March 11-12, with both games slated to begin at 3 p.m.

Baylor returns home to host Oklahoma State in a three-game weekend series as Big 12 action begins on Friday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m.

 

Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at denton.ramsey@gmail.com

 

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