The last time Jay Dill stepped on a mound in a Baylor uniform he helped the program win its second straight Division II-AA state championship in 2019.
On Monday, a much stronger and more mature Dill outdueled a fellow Southeastern Conference baseball signee as the Red Raiders backed a strong pitching performance with three home runs in a season-opening 6-2 victory over Gordon Lee.
A Missouri signee, Dill struck out 10 and did not allow a hit over 3 2/3 innings. His fastball was clocked between 89-93 miles per hour and he mixed it with a strong changeup and slider to earn the win.
"I really have been training hard and just throwing a lot. I long toss a bunch and have thrown up to 120 yards on the football field in the air," Dill said. "Going against my teammates in practice has also helped me a lot. You have to figure out ways to get these guys out. There have been a lot of battles and we are all competitive and get after it."
Dill is one of five Division I signees for the Red Raiders, who picked up plenty of power from Vytas Valincius — a South Carolina signee — in his first home game with the program. Going against an eXposure baseball teammate and Georgia signee in Gordon Lee's Jake Poindexter, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Valincius sent a towering solo shot over the trees beyond the left field fence in the bottom of the first.
Baylor's corner infielder batted his second home run in the bottom of the fifth, this one a two-run homer to left to build a 5-0 lead.
"We have been through so much to get this moment," Valincius said. "Every day we have been working and we all want to make this season a special one. We have a great team and I am excited to try and win a state championship with this group."
Baylor catcher Jon Larrea stood out with a line drive opposite-field double to right center for a 2-0 lead in the second, and also made two excellent defensive plays. Larrea caught a ricochet off the back wall to throw out a runner at third and also made a sliding catch on a pop out to end the game.
Left-handed slugger Cooper Kinney led off the third inning with a triple to the left-centerfield warning track and would later score on a hard hit ball to third base by Henry Godbout that was mishandled.
Godbout was sharp in relief, striking out four batters over 1 2/3 innings, which included escaping a bases loaded jam that he entered into with one out in the fifth. In the bottom of that inning he rocketed a solo home run to right center for a 6-0 lead.
Baylor pitchers struck out 18 batters, while Gordon Lee (10-2) scored its lone two runs in the seventh.
"Today was really fun. Our guys competed and fought against a scrappy team that is two-time defending state champions like we are," Baylor coach Greg Elie said. "Vytas had a heck of a day. Jay was really, really good for it being his first outing. We have a lot of talented ball players on this team and they all feed off one another."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.