Provided by Wayland Baptist Athletics
FORT WORTH – Looking to get out of a second-place tie in the Sooner Athletic Conference standings in its final regular-season series, the Wayland Baptist baseball team traveled to Fort Worth to take on Texas Wesleyan at LaGrave Field. The Rams took two close ball games Friday, 5-3 and 3-2, to take away any hopes the Pioneers had of moving up in the standings.
In the first inning of game one, Wayland (31-20, 17-9) got three walks and a hit off the Rams' starting pitcher, Sam Martin, but failed to plate any runs.
Colton Palmer led off the game with a four-pitch walk, but was picked off of first base, and Aaron Vallance followed with a four-pitch walk of his own before Mark Davis finally saw the first strike of the ball game.
Davis reached on a fielder's choice, while Josh Alexander and Damion Lovato singled and walked, respectively, to load the bases.
Martin (8-1) worked out of the jam, however, getting Gaby De La Cruz to hit a ground ball to short to end the inning.
Wayland's starting pitcher, Taylor Bridges (6-4), had an easy first two innings on the mound but got into trouble in the third.
The Rams (26-23, 15-11) got four consecutive hits with one out in the third, scoring two runs. Texas Wesleyan's clean-up hitter, Dakota Lee, came up with runners on first and second and no outs and crushed Taylor's offering towards the left field foul pole. The ball sailed just left of the pole, and the Pioneer dugout breathed a sigh of relief.
Taylor got Lee to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning, but the Rams had already taken a 2-0 lead.
The Pioneers cut the lead in half, 2-1, after Chris Buitron came up with a clutch, two-out hit to score Josh Vera from third.
The Rams responded with a run of their own, however, getting their first two hitters on with a pair of singles. Joel Rickman drew a one-out walk to load the bases, which was Bridges' last batter.
Way back in the first inning, Bridges took a hard hit grounder off his throwing hand and stayed in the game, but exited when he could no longer feel his hand in the fourth inning.
Craig Cook came in for the freshman and got a fly ball to center, but Jake Davis was able to score on the sacrifice, increasing the Rams' lead, 3-1.
Wayland scored another run in the fifth via a double from Alexander to bring home Davis who singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Alexander's RBI cut the Rams' lead down, 3-2.
Cook and the WBU defense came up with a big double play to end the fifth and got Jovany Padilla to third on a single, a sacrifice bunt and a pass ball in the top of the sixth.
Brayden Blackwell smoked a line drive to right field, but Jake Howeth made a great diving catch and fired a strike to home to keep Padilla at third.
Martin then got Palmer to ground out to third for the final out, ending the inning, 3-2.
With the Pioneers scoring eight runs in their final at bat over the last three games, Texas Wesleyan picked up some valuable insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Cook got two quick outs after walking the leadoff batter, and almost got out of the inning unscathed by snagging a comebacker, but the ball went off his glove towards second base and allowed a run to score.
Another single prompted head coach Brad Bass to bring in Jose Urena who walked his first batter then gave up an RBI single before getting a strike out to end the inning, 5-2.
In their final at bat, the Pioneers did get a run off a double from Vera, bringing the tying run up to the plate, but Martin got De La Cruz to go down on strikes to end the game, 5-3.
In game two, Mason Taylor got into a little trouble in the first inning, loading the bases and giving up an RBI single, but escaped with minimal damage by striking out the next two hitters to get out of the inning.
The Rams scored an unearned run in the second, but Taylor finally found his grove, retiring the next eleven hitters in consecutive order.
With Taylor working hard to keep his team in the game, the Pioneers finally got something going against Texas Wesleyan's tough, side-arm pitcher.
Mitch McCleod () gave up just two singles and a walk over the first five innings, allowing just one runner to make it to second base.
Vera, who did a solid job Friday filling in for an injured Damion Lovato, drew his second walk of the game to lead off the sixth.
Palmer worked the count full, fouling off several pitches, before eventually grounding out to second, but moved Vera into scoring position in the process. Vallance followed Palmer with a single to right, putting runners on the corners with one out.
The Pioneers got their first run of the game when Vera raced home on a pass ball, dipping into the Rams' lead, 2-1.
Davis proceeded to even the score, 2-2, with a base knock to right, scoring Vallance from second.
In the home half of the sixth, Taylor got two ground outs to short, but started to show signs of fatigue.
Quavian Lawson drew a two-out walk and Ryan Adams singled to move the runner into scoring position. The Rams then got a single to left from Rickman to score pinch runner, Anthony Samuel. Rickman's RBI gave Texas Wesleyan a 3-2 lead with one inning to play.
Buitron drew a one out walk and moved into scoring position on a pass ball, but McCleod finished off the Pioneers by striking out the next two hitters, giving the Rams a 3-2 win.
The sweep moves Wayland out of a tie for second in the Sooner Athletic Conference standings, but the Pioneers can salvage the series Saturday in the final installment of the three-game series. Wayland and Texas Wesleyan will finish its regular season off at noon at Sycamore Park Saturday.