WACO (March 8, 2013) -- Baylor overcame a rough first two batters of the game to grab a lead in the eighth but saw it disappear in the ninth to take a tough 4-3 loss against Illinois in the first of a three-game series at Baylor Ballpark on Friday night.
The Bears (7-7) fell into an immediate hole against the Illini (8-4) after Will Krug doubled and Michael Hurwitz homered to start the game. BU starter Dillon Newman quickly settled down, however, and went on to retire 19 straight batters in an outstanding career-high eight innings of work. He only gave up the two runs and allowed only two more hits the rest of the way while striking out five in an efficient 92-pitch effort.
“Our guys played well,” said BU Head Coach Steve Smith. “We had some really, really big time defensive plays. I thought we competed at the plate.
I thought Dillon was outstanding after the first inning. It was just a close game and in a close game the little things get magnified. I give them credit. They got things going early in a very close ball game.”
After initially struggling to handle Illini starter Kevin Johnson, the Bears finally got to him in the fifth. Mitch Price led off with a single and Jake Miller walked. Nate Goodwin’s fielder’s choice ground out advanced the runners for Logan Brown, who singled to left to bring in Price. Following a Nathan Orf walk, Lawton Langford tied the game up with a sacrifice fly.
Baylor then took the lead in an eventful eighth. With one out, Adam Toth attempted to bunt but pulled it back and was hit by Ronnie Muck’s pitch. Price followed with a single off third baseman Brandon Hohl’s glove and as left fielder Jordan Parr went to field the ball he slipped, allowing Toth to score from first base.
With Smith already telling Newman he was done after his eighth inning, Ryan Smith came on to close it for the Bears. Unfortunately, just didn’t have his best stuff and walked the first two batters. Then, a wild pitch moved them into scoring position. Justin Parr tied the game on the next play on a groundout. Following an intentional walk, David Kerian hit an RBI infield single that Cal Towey made a diving stop on at third but his throw to first was late.
“The first pitch of the inning was all I needed to see, really,” said Smith. “You have a one-run lead and we don’t know if they are taking a strike there or not but we need to find out. He kind of put himself in a bind – they didn’t even hit a ball out of the infield and he winds up giving up two runs. The only one that will stew over this more than me is him. That’s just the way he is.”
Smith regrouped to keep it a one-run deficit for Baylor in the bottom of the ninth, and Illinois nearly gave it back. With one out, Orf reached on an error by Hohl. An out later, Towey walked to bring up Wednesday’s hero Duncan Wendel, but he couldn’t make it two walk-offs in a row as he struck out swinging.
Muck (1-0) picked up the win after giving up the unearned run on one hit in his only inning. Reid Roper earned the save (2) in the ninth, allowing just the walk with two strikeouts. Smith (1-2) took the loss after allowing two runs on one hit and three walks with a strikeout in the ninth.
Price and Brown each collected two hits in four at-bats for the Bears.
The teams wrap the series tomorrow with a doubleheader. The games are set for 2:05 p.m. CT and 6:35 p.m. Game One will feature BU RHP Max Garner (1-2, 2.79 ERA) against UI RHP Nick Blackburn (2-0, 3.57 ERA). Game Two’s pitching matchup will be BU RHP Austin Stone (0-1, 6.43 ERA) versus UI RHP John Kravetz (1-0, 5.91 ERA).