Garner Leads Baylor Baseball Past No. 12 Rice

HOUSTON (March 3, 2013) -- A day after Baylor struggled on the mound, the Bears (5-6) received a valiant effort by redshirt senior RHP Max Garner in a 9-2 win over No. 12 Rice in the finale of the 2013 Astros Foundation College Classic at Minute Maid Park Sunday evening. Garner frustrated the Owls (6-5) for 8.1 innings and racked up eight strikeouts while being backed up by 12 hits and nine runs from his offense.

Garner’s first pitch was not a sign of things to come as it hit Rice leadoff hitter Leon Byrd. Instead, it was the opposite as Garner tamed the Owls in a career-long 8.1-inning effort, allowing two runs on six hits and three walks. Giving Baylor its longest start of the season, just two days after Dillon Newman threw seven strong, Garner’s two runs given up came on the last pitch he threw – a two-run homer to Skyler Ewing. Prior to that he had thrown 8.1 shutout frames.

“What a difference a day makes,” said Baylor Head Coach Steve Smith. “That’s the way the game is. A lot is predicated on how you pitch. That’s just the nature of our game. Max was outstanding. He gave up a leadoff hit batter to start the game and was really, really solid after that. His pitch count was great, he didn’t overthrow. He just did a lot of things so well. I hated to see him lose the shutout in the ninth.”

Garner faced trouble in the first and fifth innings but stayed composed to walk away unscathed both times. With two outs and Byrd on third in the first, Garner froze Michael Aquino with a fastball on the outside corner. Then in the fifth after two walks were aboard, he induced a groundout and got Michael Ratterree swinging to end it.

The game actually had a pitcher’s duel feel to it until the fifth inning. With two on and two outs, Lawton Langford roped a single and Cal Towey followed with a two-run double to left-center that kept carrying over the Rice outfield.

Up 3-0, Baylor opened up the game with three more in the sixth on a two-out, three-run homer by Logan Brown. The first home run of his career, Brown’s blast cleared the Crawford Boxes in left field and was easily the hardest hit ball in the tournament.

The Bears poured it on in the ninth with RBI singles from Nathan Orf, Adam Toth and Duncan Wendel.

In BU’s third straight victory over Rice, Garner earned his first win of the season (1-2) while Rice RHP John Simms took his first loss (3-1) after giving up six runs (three earned) on seven hits and three walks with seven strikeouts in six innings.

The Baylor offense received multiple-hit performances from Orf, Towey, Wendel and Brown. Orf was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. Towey was 3-for-4 with two RBI, a run and walk. Wendel was 2-for-5 with a run and RBI. Brown was 2-for-4 with a career-high three RBI, scored two runs and had a triple to go with his long ball.

“We had a lot of good, quality at-bats, got some pretty timely hits,” Smith said. “Cal had one early in the game. Obviously, the three-run home run by Logan – he had three or four quality at-bats, got the homer and triple. He played really well today. He hit the ball hard every time up. We had some other guys do the same. Up and down the lineup our at-bats were pretty good tonight against a pretty good guy in [John] Simms.”

Four Bears earned AFCC All-Tournament honors, led by the Most Outstanding Player in Towey. The senior third baseman went 6-for-10 in three games with six RBI, four runs, three walks, two doubles and a triple. Along the way, he extended his career-high streak of games with an RBI to seven and has multiple RBI in six of his last seven games.

Joining Towey on the All-Tournament team were Orf, Garner and Newman. Orf went 5-for-10 with five runs, three RBI, a double and walk. Garner compiled a 2.16 ERA and was 1-0 in his only appearance. Newman shutout California for seven innings to pick up a win in his only appearance, allowing just three hits and no walks with eight strikeouts.

With a 2-1 showing in the tournament for the third straight time in their eighth appearance, the Bears improved to 13-11 all-time at the 13-year-old AFCC. Baylor also had the most All-Tournament selections in a tournament that featured No.1 North Carolina, No. 12 Rice, No. 30 Texas A&M, California and Houston.

Baylor returns home with a quick turnaround to start a five-game home stand, beginning with a 6:35 p.m. CT contest against Louisiana Tech at Baylor Ballpark on Tuesday, March 5. The Bears also play the Bulldogs Wednesday at 4:05 p.m. before a three-game weekend set with Illinois.

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