BAYLOR BASEBALL UPDATE: Bears slide into six-seed, defeat Nebraska in round one action

by dentonramsey

BAYLOR BASEBALL UPDATE: Bears slide into six-seed, defeat Nebraska in round one action

By Denton Ramsey, Big 12 Fans Baylor Correspondent

WACO, Texas – For a season that began on a high note, then quickly turned sour, the Baylor Bears baseball team (32-24) – along with skipper Steve Smith – have got to be happy with Wednesday’s 10-4 round one victory over Nebraska (39-13-1).

BU went back to their roots on Wednesday evening in Oklahoma City – beginning with pitching perfection on the mound and ending with offensive outbursts at the plate.

“For us it all started on the mound, and Shawn [Tolleson] gave us a really good performance,” Smith said following the Bears round one victory. “[Tolleson had] very good command, kept his fastball down and didn’t make very many mistakes at all. He gave up a two strike hit and followed it up with a walk or a hit batter, and they were able to create some offense there and get a couple of runs on the board. He pitched really well, and that was as important for us as anything.”

Baylor’s offense was also awakened from a prolonged slumber, as the Bears faired well at the plate – scoring 10 runs on nine hits.

“The guys just did a great job at the plate,” Smith said. “Nebraska threw a bunch of really good arms at us, and while we didn’t get a ton of hits – you’re not usually going to get a ton of hits against those kinds of arms – we did get some free bases, and we got some timely hits.

“The big hit in the game was when they chose to take a gamble and play the infield in with the bases loaded, and that’s a gamble. Shaver’s [Hansen] bounding ball gets over the first baseman and cleared the bases, and then they had to play again after that and [Adam] Hornung got one to go through on the right side. Those two balls weren’t well struck. They were just situations where we put the ball in play and got the benefit out of it.”

BU third baseman Shaver Hansen led the way for the Bears on Wednesday, going 3-for-4 at the plate with four runs batted in (RBI).

“We really wanted to go up there and be aggressive and to be ready to jump on that first pitch fastball if they were throwing it,” Hansen said. “The lefty [Dan] Jennings that threw today, we saw him in relief during the Big 12 games that we had during the year, and he had a pretty good slider, so being able to attack his fastball was important for us. We all went out there with a do or die attitude and we got it done.”

According to the skipper, relaxation and confidence – along with superb mound work –helped propel the Bears in Wednesday’s tourney opener.

“Our guys were relaxed and took good at bats,” Smith said. “It looked like a pretty confident, pretty mature group of guys. Ben [Booker] says we did, but we didn’t play a flawless game because he didn’t get the bunt down. But, the next couple of times up he got a base hit to load the bases before Shaver did what he did, and then he absolutely scolded that ball of the right field fence after they had answered.

“They were back in the game; they’ve still got outs to play with. That was as big as anything. We got off to a good start, they responded, and then we responded. We didn’t shut it down; we played the game all the way from start to finish.”

Freshman Shawn Tolleson picked up with W for the Bears, going 6.1 solid innings – yielding four runs on five hits while walking three and striking out two.

“Early in the game I was able to get good command of my pitches,” Tolleson said. “I was getting my fastball down in the zone. They were hitting a lot of ground balls and infield pop ups. Later in the game I struggled a bit with control, but luckily I was able to get a few outs.”

Despite going 1-2 in their final season road woes in a pair of setbacks against Texas Tech, the Bears locked up the six-seed in the conference tournament with a blowout victory over the Red Raiders in the middle game of the three-game series.

And despite starting the season hot before taking a turn for the worse, Baylor’s baseball team compiled an impressive 31-24 regular season record while bouncing back in Big 12 play after a rough start – ending the year with an 11-16 mark in conference contests.

“After our last game at [Texas] Tech, we knew that we had to come out and bring our ‘A’ game to win this thing and do what we want to do,” Baylor junior left fielder Ben Booker said following the Bears victory. “This is a new start for us. We need to play every game like we did today. This was the ‘A’ team that we brought today, and most of the year we really haven’t brought that. Everyone knows now what we are expected to do, so we just need to bring that game out again [on Friday].

“We have to [win] or we are not going to play anymore. We have been telling each other that for the last three weeks, but it hasn’t really clicked. I don’t really know what the problems have been, but today on the field you could tell it was a different team. We drew walks, we situational hit, we pitched well and there were no flaws in the game today, so that is what we need to do [on Friday].”

Baylor enjoyed a day off on Thursday before returning to the diamond on Friday, May 23 in a round two match-up with Oklahoma State. First pitch is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT at Oklahoma City’s Bricktown Ballpark.

“I’m sure it will be the same as it was last night – it is intense,” Hansen said. “We are gunning for everybody because we know we can win; we think we can win. We are happy that we won, but we know that we have another good to team to face, and another good team after that. We have to take it one game at a time, one pitch at a time. It is pretty intense because we need to play our best ball and we know it.”

The Bears continue Big 12 Tourney play on Saturday, with Baylor scheduled to face Kansas State at 7:30 p.m. prior to Sunday’s Big 12 Championship.

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

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