A weekend series that featured a 51-hit game, a cycle, a walk-off and 20 long balls left the Wildcats with a bittersweet taste in their mouth, as they dropped two-of-three to Houston Baptist.
In game one of the series 30 mph winds blew the ball every which way as the two teams combined for 43 runs, 51 hits and 11 home runs in a slug fest that saw HBU come out with a 23-20 win.
Every inning featured a run by at least one team, and in seven of the innings both teams saw a man cross home plate. ACU jumped in front early after three first inning runs by way of a home run from freshman Caleb Kyle, a groundout by JuCo transfer Robert Salazar that scored junior Derek Scott and an RBI single from JuCo transfer Matt Munoz. But six runs, on three home runs in the second inning gave HBU the advantage for good.
The scoring continued, but at a much slower pace until the eighth inning, when things really got exciting. Leading 13-10, the Huskies added some insurance with six runs in the top of the inning, capped off by back-to-back doubles. But the Wildcats didn’t go away just yet, plating three in the bottom half, two of which came on a two-run blast from Munoz. The home run completed the cycle for Munoz as he became just the third Wildcat ever to do so.
“Friday night was definitely a night to remember, I’d always see some guys in the Majors do it, but never thought that I would do it myself,” Munoz said. “It was just a really surreal moment and to be the third guy do it in ACU baseball history was just really cool.”
However, in the ninth inning, despite scoring seven runs, most of which came on junior Koby Claborn’s pinch hit grand slam, HBU hung on to take the series opener.
“Nights like that you want to hit last for sure,” Head Coach Britt Bonneau said. “When the wind blows in West Texas the way it was blowing a 7-run lead is like a 2-run lead. You get a couple of hits and Koby hits a home run, it cuts the lead pretty quick.”
The wind factor continued on Saturday as HBU followed its seven home run day up with six in game two of the series, on the way to a 13-5 victory. The Wildcats scored first on a two-run home run by junior Riley Donahue, but the Huskies used back-to-back four-run innings in the fourth and fifth to take control of the game.
“It was just a crazy first two games,” Bonneau said. “It didn’t really matter how good your pitcher was there was going to be runs scored.”
Fortunately for the Wildcats, Sunday produced more favorable pitching conditions. JuCo transfer Brennan Lewis posted three shutout innings to pick up the win after relieving junior Jonathan Nicholson, who went six strong innings allowing just three runs. But it was freshman Dalton Dunn, recently returning from injury, who got to play the role of hero.
Despite holding HBU to just three runs after a combined 39 in the first two games, ACU trailed 3-2 entering the ninth. After two straight singles from Kyle and Scott, Claborn delivered once again with a single through the right side and tied the game at three. With Scott advancing to third on a throwing error, Dunn flied out to center field for the game-winning sacrifice fly.
“As for the win on Sunday I really think it’s going to help us gain some momentum towards the second half of conference play especially the way we did it by winning off a walk off,” Munoz said.
Sunday’s win levels the Wildcats’ record at 17-17 overall and gives them their fourth conference win of the season, which surpasses their conference win total from a season ago.
“I thought this weekend, really top to bottom we did some really good things, swinging the bat wise, as far as not swinging too big and just doing our thing. And that’s why we were able to put up some runs this weekend,” Bonneau said. We ran into a really good Houston Baptist team that’s been playing well. We need to turn these one-win weekends into two-win weekends and that’s where we have take a step.”
ACU takes on TCU Tuesday night in Fort Worth and continues conference play against Lamar on the road this weekend.