June 3, 2011
HOUSTON - Baylor jumped out to an early 6-0 lead and Logan Verrett made sure that was enough as the Bears staved off a late rally for a 6-4 win over California in the first game of the NCAA Houston Regional at Reckling Park on Friday afternoon.
With the win, Baylor (30-26) advances to face the winner of the nightcap between Alcorn State and Rice. The Bears will play that team at 6 p.m. Saturday with a spot in the Regional title round on the line.
"I thought that we got really exceptional starting pitching out of Logan (Verrett), which is the key to any game," head coach Steve Smith said. "I thought we played well defensively, executed well offensively. We had a couple of big-time plays, as did they."
Verrett (7-5) was dominant early, needing just 73 pitches to get through 6.0 shutout innings. He picked up the win after allowing three runs on seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts in 7.1 innings. Max Garner worked a scoreless ninth for his eighth save of the season.
The Bears tagged Cal starter Erik Johnson (6-4) for five runs in 2.1 innings of work. Baylor made the Golden Bears' ace work deep into counts, tossing 20 pitches in the first inning and 39 more in the second. Johnson walked six and struck out one.
Verrett issued a one-out walk in the first, but catcher Josh Ludy threw out Austin Booker stealing on the next pitch, and Tony Renda groundout out for the third out.
Brooks Pinckard got Baylor going by working an eight-pitch walk after falling behind 0-2 in the first inning. He stole second base for his Big 12 Conference leading 33rd swipe of the season, and Ludy delivered a two-out RBI single to put Baylor in front 1-0.
Verrett worked around a leadoff double in the top half of the second, and the Bears' bats went back to work in the home half.
Jake Miller drew a leadoff walk, Logan Vick followed with a single and Steve DalPorto moved both runners up with his team-leading 14th sacrifice bunt of the season. Miller came home on a wild pitch, and Landis Ware gave Baylor a 3-0 lead with a RBI single. Two more walks loaded the bases, but the Bears couldn't add on.
Miller and Vick drew consecutive walks with one out in the third to end Johnson's day, and DalPorto tagged reliever Logan Scott a RBI single into left-center. Ware then laid down a safety squeeze bunt and Cal Towey put the Bears in front 6-0 with a two-out RBI single.
Those runs would prove to be enough after the Bears fought off a late rally. Verrett allowed a run in the seventh after a one-out triple and a groundout, and the Golden Bears chased him after consecutive hits put runners on the corners with one out in the eighth.
Trent Blank came on in relief and allowed three hits in the inning, but Towey got the Bears out of the jam by throwing out Chad Bunting trying to score from second on Devin Rodriguez RBI single.
Towey's seventh outfield assist of the season kept the Bears' lead at 6-4. Cal brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth after a leadoff single and a two-out walk, but Garner got Renda to fly out to left field on a 3-0 pitch to end the game.
"To me the game had the feel of a basketball game," Smith said. "You just knew that at some point they (California) were going to make a run, and they did and we weathered it and we got the win."
Seven different Baylor players had one hit, and the Bears won despite being out-hit 11-7. All seven Baylor hits were singles, while Cal had four extra-base hits. Ware drove in a pair of runs, while Vick scored a pair of runs and Miller drew a career-high three walks and scored twice.
The Bears will be back in action at 6 p.m. Saturday against the winner of game two in the Houston Regional between Rice and Alcorn State. Sophomore lefty Josh Turley is expected to take the mound for the Bears.