When Cody Bradford woke up on Thursday morning, he thought he would be pitching the next day against Purdue. But due to icy winter weather up north, Purdue couldn’t make the trip to Waco, so Baylor scrambled to schedule Houston Baptist instead.
The change in plans didn’t faze Bradford a bit.
Looking every bit the part of a Friday night ace, Bradford took a no-hitter into the seventh inning as the Bears blanked Houston Baptist, 1-0, in the season opener at Baylor Ballpark. Bradford lost the no-no with two outs in the seventh when HBU’s Matt Heck spanked a single into right field.
But it was still a heck out an outing for the sophomore left-hander Bradford (1-0), as Heck’s hit was HBU’s only one of the game.
“I tell you what, it was really impressive watching him go out there,” Baylor coach Steve Rodriguez said. “The improvements he made from last year, the spike in his velocity, his breaking ball is tighter, a really good changeup. We knew he had it, but he’s doing it with better arm action this year.
“He just had so much confidence with Coach (Jon) Strauss and the pitches he was calling, which he should, because he’s one of the best at it. It was just really fun watching him have confidence with every pitch he was throwing up there, and that’s the result.”
As the game zipped along and Bradford kept retiring the Huskies (0-1), he knew what was at stake. “I peeked at the scoreboard once or twice,” he said, smiling.
But he tried to shake the idea of trying to make history out of his mind and just focus on the task at hand. Naturally, his teammates were complicit, tight-lipped as any superstitious baseball players would be.
“Oh, no no no. Baseball world, you know not to say it,” Bradford said. “Nobody approached me, nobody said anything. When I came in I was actually the first one to say, ‘Man, I made a bad pitch and he made a good hit,’ and that was it.”
Busting the Huskie hitters inside with hard fastballs and then downshifting with a changeup he deemed “phenomenal,” Bradford worked efficiently. He retired the first nine batters before HBU’s Spencer Halloran provided his team’s first baserunner with a leadoff walk in the fourth.
No problem for Baylor there – as Bradford managed to strike out Tyler Depreta-Johnson, and then BU catcher Shea Langeliers fired a bullet to second base to gun down Halloran for the strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play.
“Defense played great, I have to give it to catcher Shea Langeliers, he made a couple of phenomenal plays,” Bradford said.
Bradford finished with eight strikeouts and one walk, including fanning a pair of Huskies looking to close out the eighth.
Given how briskly he worked – he faced just one batter over the minimum – the question surfaced whether Rodriguez would send Bradford back out for the ninth. Instead, the BU coach handed the ball off to his preseason All-American closer Troy Montemayor.
HBU worked a leadoff walk off Montemayor in the ninth, but the confident senior didn’t flinch. The Huskies bunted the runner over to second before Montemayor induced an infield pop for the second out and a shallow fly to center that Richard Cunningham sprinted in to nab for the fist-pumping final out.
“When I came to the dugout I went up to Coach Strauss, and said, ‘Hey, Coach, I got this. I’ve got one more in me. Like, let’s go,’” Bradford said. “He said, ‘No, it’s the first game of the season, we’re looking at the long run, we’re not looking at the first game.’ We have a preseason All-American, one of the best closers in the nation, in Troy Montemayor. It’s a no-brainer. He did a great job of going out there and closing it tonight. There was no reason for me to go back out, Troy did a great job.”
On a chilly night, HBU’s pitchers mostly muzzled Baylor’s bats as well, as the Bears finished with just six hits. The Bears still tagged some balls hard – including doubles from Langeliers and newcomer Cole Haring – but weren’t able to string much together until the fourth.
In that inning, Langeliers smashed a leadoff double over the head of HBU centerfielder Jonathan Ducoff, a former Baylor player. Davis Wendzel followed with a walk, and two batters later T.J. Raguse roped a long fly down the left-field line that scored Langeliers on the sacrifice.
That’s all the support needed for Bradford and Montemayor, who combined on the first one-hitter for the Bears since Logan Verrett defeated Louisiana Tech on March 11, 2011.
Baylor and HBU will resume their series at 3:05 p.m. Saturday, with right-hander Kyle Hill (3-3, 2.98 ERA last year) climbing the hill for the Bears opposite HBU southpaw Matthew McCollough (2-0, 1.09 two years ago).