Baylor Completes Sunday Sweep With 16-11 Win

Baylor batters took advantage of record-setting Mississippi State pitching generosity, scoring ten runners who reached base via balls for a 16-11 victory to complete a Sunday sweep in the Cadence Bank Classic. The 11th-ranked Bears, 5-4 winners in the afternoon contest, improved to 10-1 while the Bulldogs slipped under break-even in the early season at 5-6.

The win was #500 for Baylor Coach Steve Smith, an assistant to State skipper Ron Polk from 1990-94.

The first game took over three hours to complete with just nine runs and decent pitching control. But the nightcap literally went into the night-time, an official 3:32 as the staffs combined for 27 walks…compared to 21 total base hits. Of those free passes 17 were off Mississippi State arms, which is the most on-record as issued by Bulldog pitching in 118 seasons.

"The second game was a combination of wildness by the pitching staffs, and the umpire was tight," said Polk. "It makes for a long day. And just about every time we walked somebody, they scored."

Indeed, more than enough of these free passes were cashed in to offset anything Mississippi State's offense could manufacture. Still these runners had to be driven in and Bear batters punched out 11 base hits, including multi-run homers by shortstop Beamer Weems and catcher Brooks Kimmey. Baylor was able to score either two or three runs in seven turns at-bat.

The Bulldogs mustered ten hits of their own, including a solo home run by 1B Tyler Moore. But only RF Andy Rice was able to tally a couple of safeties. And while Baylor issued double-digit walks as well, State could only bring half of them all the way home.

Bear righthander Shawn Tolleson made his first decision of 2008 a success, working five full innings with four runs charged. Half of those came in the first frame but Tolleson did keep his team in front and limited further damage to lone scores in the third and fifth. He allowed seven hits with three walks.

State starter Chad Crosswhite (0-2) unfortunately set another tone with his three first-inning walks, all of whom scored for a lead the Bears wouldn't give up. The junior righthander lasted an out into the second inning, and ended up charged with the first five allowed runs on two hits and four walks.

Relievers Michael Busby and Andy Wilson were tagged with a couple of runs apiece as they combined for 5.2 innings. Jared Wesson and Drew Hollinghead took care of the last two turns.

Crosswhite got himself in trouble immediately, walking three of the first four Bears faced to fill all posts. Adam Hornung one-hopped a hit that barely cleared C.Power's glove behind third, dribbling down the leftfield line for a two-run double. Aaron Miller made it around to third base as well, where he could score on a fly ball to left by Dickerson and stake Baylor to a 3-0 lead.

Which almost didn't last the bottom of the inning as CF Mark Goforth led off with a single and SS Russ Sneed doubled for two Dogs in scoring positions. LF Jason Nappi's ripper ate up back-pedalling shortstop Weems and plated both runners. Tolleson came back with three-straight strikeouts, the last two called Ks, to maintain a 3-2 margin through one.

Another leadoff walk, steal, and RBI-single by Ben Booker doubled the Bear lead in their second, and when Crosswhite issued a fifth free pass Busby inherited a two-on, one-out situation with the core of Baylor's order up. He got a fly-out of Weems and a slow roller off clean-up man Miller that should have ended the inning. Except 2B Ryan Powers simply didn't put the glove down far enough, the ball bobbled by, and Baylor led 5-2.

A two-out error and walk had a pair of Dogs on in the bottom of the frame and Sneed spanked the ball smartly. Bear second baseman Landis Ware not only dove into the hole for the run-saving stop, but got enough on his throw to first to end the threat. And the Bears padded their lead with a pair in the third, both driven in by Booker on his two-out single through the box.

Connor Powers singled into rightfield in State's third, scoring RF Andy Rice from second to make it 7-3.

A couple of fifth-inning walks brought lefthander Andy Wilson from the Bulldog bullpen. His first pitch was used by Baylor to double-steal both runners along. His third was a dirtball that scored Kimmey. Wilson struck out a pair before Hansen made it 9-3 with a base hit through the left side, scoring Paul Miles.

Tolleson was an out into his fifth when he hung a fastball for Tyler Moore to sail over leftfield, his second home run of the day and season. Tolleson left another Dog at first base to end his stint. Reliever Russell Linebaugh soon had even more margin to work with as a walk and errored grounder had two Bears on in the seventh. They scored in front of Weems as the shortstop crushed his first homer of the year over leftfield for a 12-4 tally.

Down so far with nine outs left, State started wholesale substitutions—even of Moore. For whatever reason it sparked something of a rally as Linebaugh couldn't find the strike zone. He walked four of five faced in the bottom of the seventh, with a wild pitch that scored Sneed, before the hook came out. Righty Reed Woytek got the call with sacks stuffed and sub-SS Jet Butler getting to swing. His hot shot got right through the third baseman's wicket for two runs.

C Cody Freeman, the sixth pinch-batter of the inning, slapped it sharply again to the left side. This time Hansen came up cleanly and started the 5-4-3 turn to keep it 12-7. And Booker got two of those runs back in the top of the eighth, off Wesson, as with two Bears in scoring slots he slipped a single past a drawn-in Dog second baseman.

Both the runs had reached on walks. After another free base, and wild pitch, Wesson threw one more ball before having the ball taken by the pitching coach so Hollinghead to end the inning on a grounder. However he did walk one on in the ninth, to score on a two-run homer by Brooks Kimmey.

Woytek prolonged the evening by loading the bases in State's last chance with one out. Butler again produced a fielding error, this time a grounder that the diving first baseman threw into his own dugout for a pair of Bulldog runs and two more in scoring positions. Brooks Lewis didn't wait, swinging on the first pitch for his first career base hit, two more RBI, and a 16-11. It also resulted in one more moundsman getting work, with righty Tim Matthews rolling a twin-killing off Will Coggin's stick to end the affair.

"It's a disappointment," Polk said of the day. "We had a chance to win the first game, if we win that maybe game-two is different. We're playing a team that is very, very good."

State is also playing without the top two players. 2B Brandon Turner is sidelined for at least another week with a nagging hamstring, while closer Aaron Weatherford is behind held out for this weekend with shoulder soreness. Had Weatherford been available Polk would not have tried to push game-one starter Justin Pigott so long, to the point the senior finally wore down and Baylor was able to score the tying and go-ahead runs in the seventh inning.

But injuries are just something the Bulldogs have to get used to working around for a while longer. "We need everybody healthy for us, we have the best hitter (Turner) out, Weatherford out, and that's a big factor. It's like a construction project, we're trying to build and we can't have injuries. We've got to put some pieces together before SEC play."

Before that, though, the Classic concludes Monday with a 1:00 game. State is expected to toss Ricky Bowen (1-1, 12.00era) while Baylor has booked righty Willie Kempf (1-0, 1.80) for the start.

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