Baylor will have to wait just a bit longer if it is to qualify for the state baseball tournament for the first time in four years.
The Red Raiders split a home doubleheader Wednesday to open their best-of-three Division II-AA quarterfinal series with Briarcrest's Saints, winning 3-1 before losing 4-3 and forcing a deciding game at noon today at Baylor.
"Everything is on the line now," Baylor coach Greg Elie said. "We kicked it around early in the second one, and that makes it a lot tougher to beat a good team when you do that.
"In this game you have to have a short memory, so I'm excited to see what our kids can do with this opportunity."
Two first-inning errors opened the door for Jack Fite's three-run homer that proved to be the difference in the second game, the start of which was delayed by rain. Grayson Linderman allowed just one earned run but took the tough-luck loss for Baylor.
With Baylor trailing 4-0, Gehrig Ebel hit a two-run homer in the fourth to cut the deficit in half, and the Red Raiders picked up another run in the seventh.
"It was two really good games with pitchers on both sides going at it and some timely hits, but we just couldn't get another big one late when we needed it," Elie added.
Things began much brighter as Baylor's Alex Butler outdueled University of Alabama signee Connor Shamblin in the first game. Butler, a right-hander who has signed with Lee University, went the distance while allowing just two hits and striking out five batters.
"I knew this was probably my last time to throw here at home and I didn't want to end on a bad note," Butler said. "With who they were throwing, I also knew runs would be tough to get, so I really had to do my job. Fortunately we got to him and got some offense going early, which was big."
The Saints scored first with a run in the third, but Baylor answered in the home half of the inning when Teddy Lepcio plated the tying run on a fielder's choice. The Red Raiders added a run in each of the next two innings — taking the lead on Taylor Shahan's RBI single past second, which snapped an 0-for-30 streak at the plate for Baylor's center fielder.
Lepcio drove in an insurance run in the fifth, drilling a sharp single to left, and went 2-for-3 with a double in the second game.
"I was really happy for Taylor; that was a huge hit for us," Elie said. "This is a really fun group of kids to coach because they just play hard every game.
"Alex really battled his tail off out there against a good team and threw a great game."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.