SPOILING THEIR PARTY: Newman, Dodson Lead Bears Over #13 TCU, 6-3May 16, 2014
By Larry Little
Baylor Bear Insider
Officially, Baylor's Logan Brown had one RBI and one run scored in Thursday night's Big 12 Conference series opener against No. 13 TCU at Baylor Ballpark. In reality, he counted for at least four runs.
Brown, who tracked down a two-out line drive in left-center that would have scored a pair of runs in the top of the fourth, delivered an RBI single and scored on a first-and-third bunt in Baylor's three-run fourth inning as the Bears (24-27, 8-13) upset the Horned Frogs, 6-3.
Baylor trailed 2-0 in the bottom of the second when Aaron Dodson delivered his second home run of the season, a three-run shot that carried just over the wall in left-center. The Bears never trailed again.
However, the lead was in jeopardy on three occasions, the first of which was the top of the fourth when Cody Jones two-out double put runners at second and third. But Brown's range and sure glove in center quelled the rally. TCU (36-15, 15-7) managed only one base runner over the next two innings.
"He's made so many (catches) this year; when he doesn't get one, it's a bit unusual," said Baylor head coach Steve Smith. "You have to be that good defensively in order to stay in a lineup struggling as much as he has offensively. He has saved a lot of runs (defensively), and those are as good as a RBI."
Brown's RBI was just his 10th of the season, and his 1-for-3 night raised his average to .196. But his offensive woes have not affected his play in center, where he has tracked down nearly everything within reach of a non-superhero this season.
"You've just got to leave (bad at-bats) behind you," Brown said. "You can always be a good defender out there, regardless of how you're hitting. So, that's what I try to take out there with me."
Smith said Brown's ability to leave at-bats behind has been a good example to his younger teammates.
"He brings (his offensive struggles) to the dugout, but he definitely doesn't take them to the field," Smith said. "He's a good model for some of these guys, especially (freshman outfielder Darryn) Sheppard, who's eaten a whole's years (worth) of humble pie."
Sheppard has seen his average dip to the mid-.100s after starting the season on fire. Thursday night, Sheppard's bad angle assisted Jones' fourth-inning double.
"The guys didn't like his effort on the ball," Smith said. "They let him know about it when he came in, and he responded extremely well the rest of the game."
Dodson led off the bottom of the fourth with a double down the right-field line and moved to third when Boomer White tracked down Matt Menard's deep fly ball to left. Sheppard followed with an RBI single to center on a 2-2 pitch.
"He smoked that ball," Smith said. "(He) got a two-strike fastball up and tomahawked it really well."
After Sheppard stole second, Lawton Langford delivered a single that pushed Sheppard to third and drove TCU starter Brandon Finnegan from the game.
Finnegan (8-3), a likely first-round pick in next month's Major League Baseball Draft, entered the game with a sparkling 1.66 ERA. But that ballooned to 2.16 after allowing six runs (five earned) on five hits and a walk with three strikeouts over 3 1/3 innings.
"We just battled hard," Dodson said. "We saw pitches to hit, and we hit a lot of hard-line drives. I don't think (Finnegan) had his stuff today. He was a bit down velocity-wise and left some curveballs up. You've got to do that against a good pitcher."
Dodson's homer was Baylor's first hit of the game, coming on a 1-2 slider that stayed up in the zone. However, Dodson doubted it rattled Finnegan.
"That guy, he's a great pitcher," Dodson said. "He's going to go very, very high in the draft. There's no way that rattled him. He's too good of a pitcher. He wouldn't be as good as he is if one hit would rattle him."
Nonetheless, it was Finnegan's least effective start since Feb. 28, when Sam Houston State got to him for five runs on eight hits. But in that one, he went twice as long (6 2/3 innings) and tallied 11 strikeouts.
"We hit some mistakes," Smith said. "Guys make mistakes; you hit mistakes. We were able to do that. There were some at-bats that were impressive. But we hit some mistakes, and that's what you have to do as a hitter. You're not going to do this when they're making great pitches."
Not taking advantages of mistake pitches is something that has plagued the Bears for most of the season, Dodson said.
"Against pitchers not even half as good as him, we didn't capitalize on mistakes," he said. "That has been a problem for this offense."
Meanwhile, Baylor starter Dillon Newman settled in after allowing solo runs in each of the first two innings. Newman (5-3) picked up the win, holding the Frogs to two runs (one earned) on five hits over six innings while walking one, hitting two and striking out three.
"It's about finding a groove," Newman said, adding that the tempo between he and catcher Matt Menard "wasn't really up to speed where I wanted it" early in the game. "Once we started clicking, zeroes starting going up on the board."
It was Newman's final career start at Baylor Ballpark. After his rockiest starts this season against Kansas State and Kansas in late April, Newman won for the second straight outing after defeating Oklahoma two weeks ago.
As has been the case most of his career, Newman again leaned on his plus changeup against TCU.
"My fastball, I'm up there on the mound lately trying to work some kinks out," he said. "I definitely used the changeup a lot tonight."
One of the more veteran starters in the Big 12, Newman and his changeup is no unknown commodity to league hitters. Nonetheless, he continues to have success with it.
"Me and Matt actually came up with a system where I changed looks to go to that pitch," Newman said. "A lot of teams know that it's my bread and butter, but I'm mixing it up. If I can drop it in there unexpectedly, that'll work to my advantage.
TCU threatened in both the seventh and eighth innings against reliever Doug Ashby.
Jones, who went 3-for-4, doubled to open the seventh. After striking out Derek Odell, Ashby walked White on four pitches. Cleanup batter Kevin Cron followed with a single to load the bases, but Ashby coaxed a comebacker on his first pitch to Garrett Crain and started a 1-2-3, inning-ending double play.
The Frogs again loaded the bases with one out in the eighth. Jones delivered a sac fly, but Odell hit into an inning-ending fielder's choice.
"His stuff was better tonight, I think, after finally being able to get some sleep with finals being over," Smith said of Ashby. "He made some big pitches - the strikeout of the lefthander after he gave up the walk to lead off the inning was pretty big. He did what was asked him to do: get through two innings, strand a bunch of guys, and keep it right where it was."
TCU stranded 11 runners on the night, including four in the two innings Ashby pitched.
Josh Michalec worked a perfect ninth on 12 pitches with one strikeout for his 20th save, tying the Big 12 single-season record held by Oklahoma's Jeff Bajenaru from the 2000 season.
To put things in perspective, Oklahoma won 41 games that season. Michalec has saved 83 percent of Baylor's wins this season, including 10 saves of two-plus innings.
"That may have been as good of stuff as we've seen him have," Smith said of Michalec's speedy outing.
Baylor and TCU continue their three-game series Friday at 6:35 p.m. Lefthander Daniel Castano (5-3, 3.63 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Bears against Frogs right-hander Preston Morrison (7-3, 1.28) in a game that will be broadcast by FOX Sports Southwest.
Here is a link to the boxscore from Thursday's Baylor-TCU baseball game.
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