HOUSTON–Through two games at the Houston College Classic, we’ve been treated to four strong starting pitching performances. Fortunately for Baylor, its strong start by Shawn Tolleson was followed by sterling relief by freshman righthander Logan Verrett, who shut down Houston over the final 2 1/3 innings to secure a 3-2 win.
Tolleson held the Cougars to two runs on six hits while striking out five over 6 2/3 innings, but Houston ace lefty Wes Musick nearly matched him, allowing three runs on eight hits while striking out six over seven innings.
The difference was the seventh inning, when Tolleson surrendered back-to-back doubles to start the top of the frame, allowing the Cougars to tie the score at 2-2. But Houston had a runner thrown out at the plate on a no-outs squeeze play, then lost another runner trying to steal third. Third baseman Shaver Hansen made a great diving stop on a hot shot down the line to keep runners at the corners with two outs. That’s when Verrett came in and struck out catcher John Cannon on an 82 mph slider to end the threat.
"It’s great for pitchers to have someone like Shaver over there making diving plays," Tolleson said of Baylor’s junior third baseman, who made a number of sparkling plays at the hot corner and also had three hits. "Even though he didn’t get the out at first, he saves that run from scoring. Plays like that in a one-run game are pretty huge.
The Bears took the lead back on consecutive doubles of their own in the bottom of the seventh, and Verrett made sure it stood up, working two more hitless, scoreless innings to pick up the win. Verrett, who pounded the zone with an 89-92 mph fastball and hard-breaking low-80s slider, improved to 3-0 on the season. He has yet to allow an earned run over the first eight innings of his collegiate career.
"I think Logan has really done a nice job," Baylor coach Steve Smith said. "It doesn’t seem to faze him–he came in to first-and-third and was pretty sharp right off the bat . . . It’s been really big, given that other guys haven’t been."
Tolleson, though, was much better today than he was in his season debut last week. He lacked the low-90s velocity he’s shown in the past, instead sitting at 87-89 and touching 90 a couple of times in the first, but he kept the ball down and moved it in and out. He also had some success mixing in his 80-82 slider and 78-81 changeup with split-finger action.
Musick was equally impressive, complementing his 89-91 mph fastball with an excellent 77-80 changeup and mixing in a 73-75 curveball and a 79-82 slider. But Baylor got timely hitting from Hansen and first baseman Dustin Dickerson (3-for-4 with an RBI), among others, and came up with big defensive plays when necessary to win its fourth one-run game of the young season.
"This is the first time we’ve actually won one on the defensive end," Smith said. "Those are a little differet when you’ve got to protect the lead like that."
It’s a lot easier to protect a lead with a relaxed, strike-throwing power arm like Logan Verrett at the back of the bullpen.