Towey's home run pushes Baylor past No. 11 Oklahoma 2-1 in series opener
WACO, Texas -- A well-pitched game on both sides ended dramatically on Cal Towey's walk-off home run for a 2-1 Baylor win against No. 11 Oklahoma on Friday evening at Baylor Ballpark. The win moved the Bears (18-16, 6-3 Big 12) to two games over .500 for the first time this season and gave them their longest winning streak of the year at four.
The Sooners (27-7, 7-3 Big 12) had Baylor's number five times last season, ending the Bears' run in the Big 12 Championship after winning the regular-season crown. In the first meeting in 2013, it was the Bears who came out on top for their first series-opening win of the season and seventh overall win in the last eight games.
"Unbelievable game," BU head coach Steve Smith said. "It started with an unbelievably great day weather-wise -- the ballpark has never looked this good -- and then we get two teams who get to compete on it in front of a great crowd. It was an extremely well played game with its share of drama."
Another phenomenal outing by Dillon Newman was washed away by a ninth-inning Oklahoma RBI single, but Towey wasted no time in the first at-bat of the bottom half. He crushed a 1-1 slider from OU lefty reliever Jake Fisher (0-1) high and a few feet over the right field fence to give Baylor its fourth walk-off win of the season. The knock marked Towey's second career game-winning homer (May 23, 2010 vs. Oklahoma State) and first walk-off hit.
Prior to the game being tied, Newman was given a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a Grayson Porter single that scored Lawton Langford after a one-out walk and Nathan Orf walk. The run was just the ninth given up all year by OU starter Jonathan Gray in 68.1 innings.
Up to the task to match one of the NCAA's best pitchers, Newman -- the NCAA leader in strikeout-to-walk ratio -- put himself in the spotlight as well by retiring 12 of the first 13 hitters he faced for the second start in a row.
"[Newman] wasn't overmatching them but he changed his speeds well," Smith said. "Last year, he was a two-pitch guy. [Friday], he showed four pitches and got outs with all of them. His stuff was solid and he held it all the way to through the ninth. He did exactly what a winner does. He did exactly what a legit competitor does on his next start out after he felt he didn't pitch well. He had to do it, there was no margin for error."
Taking a no-decision as well, Gray threw eight innings while allowing the run on four hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts and retired 16 in a row at one point. It was just the second time in nine starts that he took a no-decision to keep his record at 6-1 while his ERA stayed at 1.19.
"[Gray] is really good," Smith said. "I was trying to think of who I would compare him to, going back to the days of seeing [Roger] Clemens when I thought he was phenomenal. He held his stuff. He was at 97-99 mph for 120 pitches with an 88 mph slider. That is pretty special stuff right there. When the other guy's that good and you're able to win the game, that's pretty special."
Unfortunately for Newman, the one time he allowed a runner to second base led to a run. Hunter Haley led off the top of the ninth with a single and then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Craig Aikin followed with an RBI single grounder that tipped off the glove of a diving Steve DalPorto at first base, ricocheting into right field just out of reach of second baseman Lawton Langford, who was also trying to make a play in the hole.
Newman gave up another single on a well-placed blooper immediately after the game-tying hit, which brought Crayton Bare to the mound for the Bears. All Bare did was pump six strikes, getting a groundout and swinging strikeout to keep the game tied for Towey's heroic blast.
Newman's final line in a career-high 8.1 innings pitched was one run given up on six hits with five strikeouts while throwing a career-high 107 pitches. Lowering his ERA to 2.83, he retired 25 of the 30 batters he faced. In support of Newman, Bare improved to 2-1 with the two-out win.