Opening night at the Waco Regional proved to be a historic one for Oral Roberts University as the Golden Eagles rallied to top No. 4 Baylor, 4-2, in front of a capacity crowd at Baylor Ballpark. With the victory, ORU (38-24) advances to the winners bracket, where they will face Dallas Baptist on Saturday evening.
Baylor (44-15), the top seed at the Regional, will face UT-Arlington in an elimination game at 2 PM CT on Saturday.
Summit League Pitcher of the Year Drew Bowen (7-2) earned his biggest victory as a collegian on Friday night, going six strong innings to earn the triumph. Bowen allowed two runs and struck out a pair in the win.
Senior Joe Spring threw three scoreless innings and struck out four to earn his third save of the season, while Baylor's Josh Turley (9-1) took the loss. The Golden Spikes semifinalist allowed three runs (two earned) in 5.2 innings.
At the plate, Nate Goro homered for the Golden Eagles, while Logan Domenico, Jared Schlehuber and Brandon King each tallied two base hits.
Baylor opened scoring in the bottom of the 1st, as a Logan Vick sacrifice fly plated Nathan Orf. But Bowen did a stellar job limiting the damage, getting a shallow fly out and a strike out to end the inning with bases full of Bears.
ORU missed an opportunity to get even in the 2nd inning. Singles by Schlehuber and King combined with a Baylor error to load with bases with one out. But the Golden Eagles could not bring a runner home, as a groundout and a strike out ended the threat and kept Baylor in the lead.
The home side doubled their lead in the 3rd inning. Moments after Vick's fly ball to right field died on the warning track, Josh Ludy hit a deep drive to left, clearing the fence for his 14th home run of the season. The blast gave the Bears a 2-0 advantage.
Rob Walton's club missed another golden scoring opportunity in the 5th inning, after another Baylor error and two walks loaded the bases. But Turley got the out he needed, inducing a pop out off the bat of Cam Schiller to keep the score 2-0.
The Golden Eagles finally made the most of their chances in the 6th inning, as three doubles and some gutsy base running cashed in the go-ahead runs. King opened the inning with a two-bagger, and he came in to score two batters later on a double by Bennett Pickar that hugged the left field line. Logan Domenico tied the game with a double that scored Pickar, but the inning wasn't over.
ORU took the lead on a wild play one batter later. Brandon Healy grounded a ball up the middle, and Baylor shortstop Jake Miller bobbled the ball. With the ball on the ground, Domenico got the green light and headed for home, drawing a throw from Miller. The ball was in time but off line, and the freshman slid home to give ORU a 3-2 lead.
An insurance run was badly needed, and the Golden Eagles got it in the 8th off the bat of Goro. The junior shortstop took the first pitch he saw from Baylor's Dillon Newman and blasted it over the left field fence, extending the lead to 4-2.
With the lead in hand, ORU turned to Spring to shut the door on the top-seeded Bears. The Owasso native delivered, stranding runners in each of the final three innings to preserve the victory.
As the fourth-ranked team in the nation according to the NCAA's pre-tournament seeding, Baylor is the highest-ranked victim in the history of the ORU baseball program.
ORU's winners bracket contest against second-seeded Dallas Baptist starts at 7 PM CT on Saturday in Waco. Live video coverage is available at BaylorBears.com, with audio available in the Tulsa area on KYAL AM-1550.