EDINBURG, Texas — After 347 days since the 2020 season was canceled, Baylor baseball got back in action on Sunday with two games at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The Bears (1-1) dominated the first contest with a 12-7 victory and went up 8-0 in the fifth inning of the second game, before eventually falling to the Vaqueros (1-1) 9-8 at UTRGV Stadium.
After the Vaqueros opened up the scoring with a solo home run in the bottom of the second frame, the Bears offense exploded for 12 runs over the next three innings.
In the top of the third, newcomer Antonio Valdez smacked a single for his first hit in a Baylor uniform, while Esteban Cardoza-Oquendo followed Valdez with his first career home run to give the Bears the 2-1 edge. Baylor was not finished in the inning as singles from second-year freshmen Jared McKenzie and Kyle Nevin, setup fifth-year senior Andy Thomas who crushed his ninth-career homer to make it 5-1 going into the bottom of the frame.
The Vaqueros added a run in the bottom half of the third, but again the Bears responded with four runs in the fourth. McKenzie got things started with two outs as he hit his first career home run to make it 6-2. After newcomer Jack Pineda got his first career hit with a single and Nevin reached on an error, it once again setup Thomas who roped a two-run double to the wall in left-center field to extend the lead to 8-2. Outfielder Davion Downey kept finished the scoring run with a single to right center to make it 9-2.
For the third-straight inning, UTRGV scored in a frame, this time adding two runs to trim the Baylor advantage to 9-4 heading into the fifth. BU answered with three in the top half of the fifth after McKenzie hit his second career home run with a three-run shot to build the lead to 12-4.
UTRGV added three runs in the sixth to make it 12-7, when reliever Jacob Ashkinos came in to shut the door in the final three innings to earn the first save of his career. Second-year pitcher Hambleton Oliver (1-0) earned the win after 1.1 innings of relief work.
The Bears jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first after back-to-back RBI fielder’s choice and a Downey RBI-double to left center field. First baseman Chase Wehsener continued the scoring in the second inning with a leadoff home run to make it 4-0. Singles in the third frame by Tre Richardson and Cardoza-Oquendo set up Valdez for an RBI-base knock to extend the lead to 5-0.
Starting pitcher Tyler Thomas held the Vaqueros in check, after only allowing three hits in the first four innings of scoreless baseball.
The runs kept coming in for the Bears in the fifth inning after two walks and a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners. Three-straight RBI singles from Valdez, Wehsener and McKenzie boosted the BU lead to 8-0.
In the bottom of the frame, UTRGV got two runs back following a two-run shot. The Vaqueros continued to put on the pressure in the seventh inning with three RBI-singles of their own to trim the deficit to 8-5. With runners on first and third, UTRGV tied things up with a three-run homer to left field.
The score remained at 8-8 heading into the bottom of the eighth, when the Vaqueros took the lead after scoring from third with an infield single and held on in the ninth for the 9-8 victory.
• Head Coach Steve Rodriguez is now 4-2 at BU in season-opening games.
- BU hit five home runs in the first two games. Under Rodriguez the Bears have hit 212 HR in 240 games.
- The Baylor offense combined for 31 hits and 20 runs on Sunday.
- In both games, all nine players in Baylor’s starting lineup finished the first game with a hit.
- McKenzie combined 6-for-11, two home runs, five RBI and four runs.
- Pineda went 5-for-11, while scoring two runs in his first two games as a Bear.
- Valdez finished the day 4-for-8 with three runs scored and two RBI in his first career games at BU.
- The Bears hit two home runs in the third inning, which marked the first time since the opening series last season against Nebraska (2/15/20) that the Bears hit two home runs in one frame.
- Six players finished the contest with two or more hits
- McKenzie went 4-for-6 career high with four RBI, while hitting his first two home runs of his young career.
- Thomas set a new career-high with five RBI, while crushing his ninth career homer of his five-year career.
- Cardoza-Oquendo hit his first career home run with a two-run shot in the third inning of the season opener.
- In their BU debuts, Pineda finished going 3-for-6 while scoring a run and Valdez went 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
- Baylor hit four home runs in the first game of the day, the first time the Bears have hit four or more HRs in a game since Feb. 26, 2019 against Dallas Baptist.
- Ashkinos earned his first career save after throwing three scoreless innings, while only allowing one hit and striking out three.
- McKenzie, Pineda, Valdez and Wehsener all finished with two hits apiece.
- Wehsener hit his first home run of the season after leading the team in home runs last season with three.
- Starting pitcher Thomas impressed with the longest outing of his career, going six innings while only giving up four hits, two runs, two walks and striking out four.
STAT OF THE DAY
After hitting an impressive .406 last year as a freshman, McKenzie picked up right where he left off, going a combined 6-for-11 with his first two career home runs, five RBI and four runs scored on Sunday.
The Bears and Vaqueros will finish up their series on Monday at 1 p.m. in UTRGV Stadium. The game will be streamed on WACDigitalNetwork.com.
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