By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
"It's easy to kind of go, `OK, he can't do it,' and then you've got to put someone else out there," Rodriguez said. "I think he had the best chance. His stuff is plenty good enough, it was just a matter of his command."
Thomas (3-2) repaid that confidence in Sunday's series finale against Oklahoma State, tossing five shutout innings and registering a career-high seven strikeouts as the Bears (30-18, 11-10) knocked off the 20th-ranked Cowboys, 7-3, to clinch their third consecutive Big 12 series.
"Today was the first day where I came out and cleared my mind and just let everything happen," said Thomas, who was 0-2 with an 8.38 ERA and 15 walks in 9 2/3 innings in those first four conference games. "I talked to (Baylor pitchers) Cody Bradford, Hayden Kettler and Kyle Hill a lot about routines and repeating what you do. Today, that's what I did. I cleared my mind, repeated and executed."
Baylor got to OSU starter Jonathan Heasley (3-5) early, scoring four runs in the first four innings.
"It all starts with Nick Loftin leading off for us," said Cole Haring, who was 2-for-3 with two RBI out of the 7 hole in the lineup. "He's been on every inning in the first at-bat. It's really good for him to get on, and it's easy to score runs after that."
The Bears added two more runs in the fourth when Davion Downey struck out swinging and reached on a two-base throwing error by the catcher. After a Haring walk and a Josh Bissonette sacrifice bunt, T.J. Raguse drove in a run with a groundout and Loftin followed with an RBI single through the left side.
Hitless through the first four innings, the league-leading Cowboys (29-19-1, 16-5) strung together a couple singles off Thomas in the fifth. But, he struck out Big 12 home-run leader Matt Kroon (18) to end the frame.
"I did mix the curveball and fastball up a lot," Thomas said. "I just tried to keep them guessing and not knowing what's coming."
After watching OSU hit a Baylor Ballpark-record seven homers in the Cowboys' 11-6 win on Saturday, Thomas said he "wasn't too worried about it. I knew I just needed to keep the ball down and don't make any mistakes about leaving it up and letting them hit it out."
The Bears tacked on three insurance runs in the seventh off reliever Brady Basso. Davis Wendzel doubled, Thomas followed with a walk and Haring blasted a two-run homer to right-center that pushed the lead to 7-0.
"They're a really good team, but we came out this weekend and just battled," said Haring, who hit his sixth home run of the season. "We've been hot lately, and we came out and played well and just kept rolling."
Kroon and Colin Simpson hit back-to-back homers off reliever Kyle Hill in the eighth, then Carson McCusker hit a solo shot off closer Troy Montemayor in the ninth. But "The Mayor," honored in a Senior Day ceremony, got pinch-hitter Cade Cabbiness on a fly to right to close it out.
Baylor has won 14 of its last 15 games heading into a regular season-ending series at West Virginia (26-23, 8-13) that begins Thursday in Morgantown.
"You always want to say we played really well down the stretch, and I think that's one of the things they look at is the hottest teams going into it," Rodriguez said. "I explained to them very simply that we can only control what we can. We can go out and do everything we can to win games, and at that point you leave it in the (NCAA tournament selection) committee's hands and let them do what they have to do."
WACO, Texas -- Baylor baseball won a 7-3 decision over No. 20 Oklahoma State in the series rubber match on Sunday afternoon at Baylor Ballpark. The Bears (30-18, 11-10) used solid pitching and timely hitting to put away the Cowboys (29-19-1, 16-5).
After BU starter Tyler Thomas escaped a jam in the first inning, the offense gave him support right away. Nick Loftin led off with a single on the bottom of the first, Richard Cunningham was hit by a pitch and then Andy Thomas plated two on a single.
In the fourth, Baylor added to the lead on a T.J. Raguse RBI groundout and Loftin RBI single.
The 7-0 lead was enough to withstand three later homers by OSU.
Thomas (3-2) earned the win, giving up two hits and four walks with seven strikeouts in five-plus shutout innings. OSU starter Jonathan Heasley (3-5) took the loss, allowing four runs (two earned) on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 5.2 innings.
*Baylor has won three straight Big 12 series for the first time since 2013 and four straight overall series for the first time since 2014.
*Baylor has won 16 of its last 18 games.
*Baylor has won 30 or more (30) games in a season for the second straight year, giving the program back-to-back 30-win seasons for the first time since 2011 (31) and 2012 (49).
*Baylor is 17-24 against ranked opponents under third-year head coach Steve Rodriguez (5-6 in 2018, 7-10 in 2017, 5-8 in 2016) and is 5-6 in three-game series against ranked foes. Prior to topping No. 8 Texas Tech on March 16-17, BU's last win over a ranked opponent was Feb. 24 at No. 11 UCLA (8-6) and last series win over a ranked opponent was vs. No. 23 Houston on March 10-12, 2017.
*Baylor is 15-19 under Rodriguez against Baseball America ranked opponents (5-5 in 2018, 7-9 in 2017, 3-4 in 2016) and is 4-5 in three-game series against ranked foes. Prior to topping No. 8 Texas Tech on March 16-17, BU's last win over a Baseball America ranked opponent was Feb. 24 at No. 11 UCLA (8-6) and last series win over a Baseball America ranked opponent was vs. No. 23 Houston on March 10-12, 2017.
*Baylor is 209-307-1 all-time against Baseball America ranked opponents and 177-260-1 in regular season play.
*Baylor is 7-4 in three-game series this season (2-3 on road, 5-1 at home) and has a combined record of 18-13.
*Baylor has hit 130 home runs in 158 games under Rodriguez. BU hit 51 in 2017 for its most homers since 2010 (57). BU has 46 in 2018.
*Baylor has finished its home schedule with a .500 record or better (19-7 in 2018) in all 20 seasons at Baylor Ballpark (since 1999) and is 436-199 all-time at the park.
*Baylor has scored 110 runs in its last 65 innings.
*Davis Wendzel has reached base in a career-high 37 straight games, marking Baylor's longest since a 39-game streak by David Murphy in 2003. He also has a 17-game hitting streak. He had his team-high 19th multi-hit game (2).
*Andy Thomas has a 19-game on-base streak as he posted his 18th multi-hit (2) and ninth multi-RBI (2) game.
*Freshman Nick Loftin has reached base in 18 straight games and has a 10-game hitting streak. He had his 17th multi-hit game (2).
*T.J. Raguse has an 18-game on-base streak and 11-game hitting streak.
*Josh Bissonette has an eight-game on-base streak and had his 11th multi-hit game (2).
*Cole Haring has a six-game on-base streak and five-game hitting streak. He hit his sixth home run of the season and in his career as he had his 14th multi-hit (2) and seventh multi-RBI (2) game.
*Shea Langeliers has a three-game on-base streak.
*Tyler Thomas tallied a career-high seven strikeouts.
STAT OF THE GAME
5 -- The amount of series Baylor won at home this season in six attempts.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"You want guys to be able to throw in the fire and see how strong they can be and how they react to it and [Tyler Thomas] did a phenomenal job. Being a freshman in a big, key game in a big series for us, being able to step for us like he did, and you can kind of tell after the first inning he started to feel really comfortable and really good ... The big thing [with these seniors] is they were here before I got here and being able to withstand some of the things that we went through early on and being able to help lead this team to where it is now, that, for me, is one of the biggest things that a lot of people don't realize is that it is hard going through a coaching change and going through some adversity that we went through in the very beginning. Being able to kind of deal with us coaches just makes it a really proud moment because those guys will be in my life until I die." -- Baylor Head Coach Steve Rodriguez
The Bears finish the regular season with a three-game series at West Virginia on May 17-19. For updates on the program follow @baylorbaseball on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.