In the fifth inning of Saturday’s game, Oklahoma’s Jordan Vujovich struck out, then flung his bat some 35 feet toward the dugout.
You could understand the frustration. When he’s locked in, Baylor’s Paul Dickens can make life miserable for hitters.
Dickens had things on lockdown like a bank vault in this one. The junior left-hander yielded only two hits in five-plus scoreless innings to spur the 25th-ranked Bears to a 7-3 triumph over the Sooners on a windy Saturday at Baylor Ballpark. The BU win evened the series at a game apiece, and also moved the Bears (23-10, 7-3) back ahead of Oklahoma State for first place in the Big 12.
Baylor coach Steve Rodriguez commended the way that Dickens went out and filled up the strike zone, and limited any comp tickets to first base for the OU hitters. Dickens struck out nine and walked only one.
“He did a great job. The main thing for him, he didn’t walk a lot of guys,” Rodriguez said. “That’s where we’ve been getting in trouble of late, when we start walking guys. But I think he was able to only walk one, pound the zone like he did. He ran his pitch count up a little more than we wanted, but the ability to go through five innings and give us what he did, allow us to have a lead getting out there, he did exactly what we needed him to do today. Very proud of him.”
At times it just felt like Dickens (4-1), a transfer from Navarro College, was playing catch with his battery mate Shea Langeliers. The catcher said that when Dickens gets in a groove like that, it makes the game fun.
“Paul’s a competitor. He’s going to compete with everything he’s got,” Langeliers said. “Even on days when he doesn’t have his stuff, he’s going to go out there and give us the best he’s got. That’s the thing I love about Paul. He’s fun to catch. Me and him have always just hit on the same wavelength ever since he got to Baylor.”
Offensively, Baylor revved up its engine and shot out of the gates like a dragster, making Oklahoma play chase the rest of the way. Three batters into the game, Davis Wendzel launched a ball that almost looked destined to land at McLane Stadium across the river. His fifth home run of the year made it 2-0, and the Bears were just getting warmed up.
Andy Thomas followed by spanking his team-leading 14th double into the left-field corner. Following a Langeliers single, Cole Haring put a charge into one, sending it skyward some 400 feet over the wall in left-center for a three-run jack, his seventh of the year. That pushed the BU lead to a cozy 5-0 after just an inning of play.
“When you have a pitcher like (Nathan) Wiles for them who does a great job throwing strikes, he doesn’t walk a lot of guys. So our guys were looking for good pitches,” Rodriguez said. “They knew they were going to get some strikes to hit, and they laid some really good swings on things. They didn’t try to overdo it, weren’t yanking balls down the line. He’s throwing a lot of offspeed pitches to our guys, so I thought they did a really good job with their approach, hammering the middle part of the field and just getting a lot of hits.”
Even when Dickens backed into trouble, he still located the exit door. In the fifth, OU’s Brandon Zaragoza stroked a leadoff double down the left-field line. Dickens recovered to strike out the side. After getting Diego Muniz on a swing and miss to end the inning, the normally cool pitcher celebrated with a very slight gesture – something in the ballpark of a fist pump.
“I think that was big for the team,” said Dickens, who admitted he also let out a yell with the clenched fist. “We’re up 5-0 and they get a leadoff double, and so for me, I just had to stay calm and feel like, ‘OK, I can get the job done,’ just take it a pitch at a time. So I strung together a few good pitches, then a few more good pitches, next batter a few more good pitches. I thought that was big for us to get out of that inning without a run. That was big for the team. So I showed a little excitement and felt pretty good about it.”
Baylor scored one run in the fifth and another in the sixth to accelerate its edge to 7-0. Langeliers smoked an opposite-field solo homer to right in the fifth, his third of the season and second of the weekend. An inning later, Wendzel thumped a deep fly to the wall in right for an RBI double, scoring Richard Cunningham, who had reached on a bobble by OU third baseman Brylie Ware.
Even as brilliantly as he was dealing, Dickens took a seat after recording the opening out of the sixth inning. Oklahoma’s batters had fouled off quite a few pitches early in the game, extending his pitch count – Dickens finished with 97 pitches – and prompting the call to the bullpen.
The Sooners had much better luck with Baylor’s relievers. They broke up the shutout with a three-run seventh inning off Jacob Ashkinos. Cade Cavalli, who started Friday’s game on the mound but sees action at DH when he’s not pitching, lofted one up into the swirling jetstream for a solo home run to right to open the OU scoring. Ashkinos loaded the bases thereafter, surrendering a single and two walks.
Ryan Leckich came out of the pen at that point, but the Sooners (25-11, 6-5) were able to plate two more before the Bears finally closed out the inning.
Leckich and Kyle Hill neutralized Oklahoma’s rally bid thereafter. The Sooners put runners on the corners with one out in the ninth off Leckich, but Hill came on and induced the ground ball his team needed. Nick Loftin made a nifty pickup on a grounder up the middle, then flipped to Josh Bissonette to start the game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Hill picked up his fifth save thanks to that finish. Langeliers, Wendzel, Haring and Bissonette all bagged two-hit days at the plate for the Bears, who finished with 12 hits.
Davion Downey didn’t start for the Bears for a second straight day due to a wrist injury, but the sophomore entered the game in the ninth to play left field. Rodriguez said that he’d try to find ways to continue to use Downey until he can hit again.
The teams will conclude the series at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Big 12 baseball No. 9 Texas 10, Kansas State 2
AUSTIN – Eight different Longhorns registered a hit as Texas evened the series with a thumping of the visiting Wildcats.
Longhorns DH Zack Zubia went 2-for-4 with a home run and six RBIs. Texas (23-14, 5-5) turned the game into a runaway early, breaking free for a seven-run second inning.
Texas starter Blair Henley (6-1) went seven innings for the win, and didn’t give up a run to the Wildcats (15-21, 2-6) until the sixth. Henley whiffed seven batters and didn’t walk anyone.
West Virginia 4, No. 11 Texas Tech 3
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Marques Inman drew a four-pitch, walk-off walk in the bottom of the ninth, and the Mountaineers set a record-setting crowd of 3,494 at Monongalia County Ballpark home happy.
The teams were tied at 3 from the end of the fifth inning forward. But West Virginia (22-12, 6-5) loaded the bases in the ninth on two walks and a single, before Inman worked another walk to give the Mountaineers the series win. West Virginia has won three straight series over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and now Tech (22-11, 5-6) since being swept in the Big 12 series opener by Baylor.
The crowd broke the attendance record for the ballpark, which opened in 2015.
Kansas 5, Oklahoma State 4
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Dylan Ditz’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth lifted the Jayhawks over the Cowboys, evening their series at a game apiece.
It was quite a bounce-back outing for Kansas (18-16, 3-8), which gave up 12 home runs to the Cowboys in a 27-6 bloodletting on Friday. But this time the Jayhawks had their ace Ryan Zefferjahn on the mound, and he was able to limit the damage and keep KU in the game.
Oklahoma State (21-12, 7-4) did get three runs off Zefferjahn in the first, but the Cowboys didn’t score again until the eighth. They finished with only five hits.