The Umbach boys have a rich baseball tradition at Baylor.
On Saturday, it was Swede Umbach’s time to take the family name into the Red Raiders spotlight with a strong pitching performance on the final day of the Scenic City Classic.
Umbach, an up-and-coming junior left-handed pitcher, checked Red Bank on one hit over four innings, Baylor produced double-digit runs for the fourth time in five games and the Red Raiders routed Red Bank, 12-2, in a game called after six innings at Wyatt McMahan Field.
The Red Raiders have scored 48 runs while starting the season with five straight wins. They have given up just five runs and registered two shutouts by a combined score of 23-0.
In its four classic games, Baylor outscored the opponents, 28-4 – the only close contest being a 3-2 victory over Station Camp on Friday.
Umbach struck out five and walked two in his first start of the young season and had an 8-0 lead when he exited after four innings of impressive work.
“I was a little nervous,” he said. “I really just wanted to be relaxed, efficient and find a groove. I think I did that.”
Umbach is the second player from his family to play for Red Raiders coach Gene Etter, who is in his 39th season at Baylor. Trip Umbach, Swede’s father, also played for Etter and now lives in Birmingham, Ala. Trip Umbach was on the phone several times with the public address announcer in the press box getting updates on the game.
Arnold Umbach, Swede’s grandfather, played at Baylor – he was enshrined in the school’s sports hall of fame in 1992 as a member of the first group of inductees – and was signed as a free agent by the Milwaukee Braves in 1961. He made his major-league debut at the age of 21 on Oct. 3, 1964, appearing in just one game that year and was the winning pitcher.
In 1966, Umbach, then a 23-year-old right-handed pitcher, appeared in 22 games – he had three starts – with the Atlanta Braves and went 0-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 41 innings. His final major-league game was on July 19.
On Dec. 31 Umbach was traded, along with Hall of Famer Eddie Matthews and a player to be named later to the Houston Astros for Bob Bruce and Dave Nicholson. The Braves sent Sandy Alomar to the Astros in February 1967 to complete the trade.
“It’s special to pitch at Baylor,” Swede Umbach said, “and it’s an awesome place to play. My dad played for coach Etter and so am I, and that means a lot. I’m going to be calling dad as soon as we get through here.”
Umbach threw 78 pitches in his four-inning stint, including 43 strikes. He retired the first five batters before his own throwing error allowed Red Bank’s Corbin Mitchell to reach first after a two-hopper back to the mound.
Blake Turner then laced a single to left field for the Lions’ only hit off Umbach, who struck out Hunter Romans to end the second inning.
Red Bank pitcher Ben Brown walked to start the third, went to second on Ryder Pierce’s one-out single, to third on a Johnny Goodman groundout and scored on a passed ball by Baylor catcher Blake Layne.
Umbach struck out Hagen Wilkey to end that threat. Wilkey homered off reliever Andrew Belcher in the sixth inning for the Lions’ second run.
In the fourth, Umbach sandwiched walks to Gage Winton and Blake Turner around a strikeout of Mitchell, struck out Romans and induced Brown into an inning-ending groundout.
“Overall I felt good,” Umbach said. “Things went well. At first my fastball was doing well, but when that stopped working coach Etter called more curveballs and I was able to throw them for strikes.”
Etter, inducted into the Baylor Hall of Fame in 2009, has been waiting for Umbach to have a breakout game, but believes Saturday’s effort was a step in the right direction.
“Swede is a great young man,” Etter said. “His baseball ability shows occasionally, but he hasn’t been real successful yet. We’re hoping that will come at some time.”
What’s holding Umbach back?
“His control has to be better,” the veteran coach said. “He hits streaks where he just can’t get it over for strikes. His stuff is good enough, but he eases up a little bit and that makes it harder on him when he does start getting pitches over the plate.”
Umbach allowed six base runners in four innings. One scored. Another reached third and two got to second before being stranded.
Baylor did a better job of pushing runs across against three Red Bank pitchers – Brown, Wilkey and Matt Oakes.
Brown was roughed up for eight runs – five were earned. He walked four and struck out two.
Wilkey, the Lions’ front-line pitcher, worked two innings and yielded one run while striking out two.
Oakes pitched the sixth and gave up three runs that triggered the TSSAA’s mercy rule and ended the game.
“That’s a great hitting team over three,” Lions coach Trey Hicks said of Baylor. “My younger guys threw well, Baylor just hit the ball. Depth-wise, that Monday-Tuesday (District 6-AA) series puts us in a bind for the long weekends.
“We’re going to ride Hagen a little bit and Blake (Winstead), our No. 2 guy, can throw strikes. He didn’t play in this game because he worked two innings this morning against St. Benedict. They’re the two guys we’re really counting on.”
In addition to the Baylor loss, the Lions (2-4) suffered three other setbacks: Station Camp, 20-5; St. Benedict, 6-0; and Cleveland, 12-2. They are 2-4 so far this season.
“I want to play in good tournaments,” Hicks said. “My players want to play good competition to see where we’re at. That’s hard right now with a small pitching staff trying to get some strong innings. We’re giving up way too many crooked numbers and we can’t compete like that.”
Baylor is simply on an early-season roll.
The Red Raiders, who opened the season with a 10-1 win over Boyd-Buchanan, scored twice in the first inning when Taylor Maxey was hit by a pitch and Tanner Hulse reached on an infield single. Both Red Raiders scored on wild pitches by Brown.
Baylor pushed the lead to 3-0 on Maxey’s sacrifice fly.
In a five-run third, Maxey contributed a run-scoring single, Jackson Cooper delivered an RBI double and Layne’s groundout produced a run. Hunter Mercer reached on an error and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Maxey, who went 3-for-4 with a double in Baylor’s five-inning win over Rabun Gap, scored on a passed ball.
“Our hitting has been good lately,” Etter said. “In this tournament, we played some good teams that had just played in league games and our pitchers hadn’t done that and we had that advantage on them. That held true for Red Bank, too.
“Had (Wilkey) been able to pitch that whole game it would have been a different story. I don’t want to be full of praise for this team just yet. When we start playing against (Division II-AA East/Middle) Brentwood Academy and Battle Ground Academy and other opponents like that, we’ll find out what we can do. That’s coming up next weekend.”
Maxey’s second hit of the day pushed the Red Raiders’ lead to 9-1 in the fifth.
Run-scoring hits by Cooper and Alex Armstrong and Jumper, who singled behind Hunter Holland’s leadoff walk, scored on a wild pitch to close out Baylor’s offensive production.
“I had good offensive support all day,” Umbach said. “Absolutely, that’s what won it for us.”
Jumper picked up the win over Rabun Gap, throwing a three-hitter with five strikeouts and getting 15-hit support along the way. Hulse, Jumper, Layne, Armstrong and Bryson Crimmins had two hits apiece and Armstrong drove in three runs.
The Red Raiders open league play by hosting Brentwood Academy on Thursday and Friday. That three-game series begins with a double-header on Thursday.
Red Bank 001 001 – 2 3 3
Baylor 215 013 – 12 8 1
Brown, Wilkey (4), M. Oakes (6); Umbach, Belcher (5) and Layne, Baker (6).
Rabun Gap 000 00 – 0 3 2
Baylor 412 5x – 12 15 0
Edwards, Foster and Creel; Jumper and Layne.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)