By Joel Weckerly, Sports Writer
With one more series remaining and the South Central region tournament looming in the distance, the ACU baseball team is riding high after accomplishing all of its goals thus far.
The Wildcats set out at the beginning of the year to clinch the Lone Star South Division, to win the LSC championship outright and to complete a 40-win season. As of last weekend, the team was 3 for 3 in those goals.
“Not too many teams can say that they’ve done what we have,” Coach Britt Bonneau said. “We still have a few more goals we want to accomplish, but our guys don’t have anything to complain about.”
The next goal is for the team to qualify for the regional, which has the final vote Sunday for the four teams that make the cut. The regional would be the Cats’ third straight, and as of the last regional poll on April 24, they were ranked No. 3. Their LSC championship almost makes it a certainty that they will be playing in the tourney.
“Assuming we get in,” said Bonneau, “we’re pretty confident about ourselves. Right now we’re playing the best baseball we’ve played all year and we’re looking forward to having somebody host us in the region and keep playing our best.”
Indeed, the Wildcats are winners of 11 straight ball games, their longest stretch of victory for the entire season. However, with a two-week layover from this weekend’s series at St. Edwards to the regional on May 16, it may be difficult for the Cats to keep their momentum going.
“I’d like to think that we’d keep playing as strong as we have,” said senior first baseman Brandon Stover, “but we do have a long layoff before regionals. We need to continue to work hard and stay on track. We know we can fare well against the top teams in the nation.”
And many of those top teams are in the same region as ACU. Delta St., which is ranked No. 1 in the nation, is in the South Central region, as is No. 6 Alabama-Huntsville and No. 9 Central Oklahoma. ACU is tied with Huntsville at 6th in Division II.
The champions in each of the eight regions will converge on May 25-June 1 for the Division II World Series in Montgomery, Ala.
“It’s almost unfair to have so many of the top teams in one regional,” Stover said. “Whoever comes out of our region will have a very good shot in the World Series. Teams out of our region have always done well there in the past.”
Bonneau echoed these thoughts.
“I’d say we have the toughest region out of the eight,” he said. “When you’re playing teams like that, it’s just a matter of playing near-perfect baseball and hoping the ball goes your way.”
Regardless, the Wildcats say they will be competing just as hard as any of the nation’s top teams come tourney time.
“We’re gonna get geared up the same way we did for the conference tournament,” junior outfielder Creighton Bryan said. “After winning conference, we don’t think anyone can beat us.”
Last season, the Wildcats came off a similar season and conference championship, only to fall in two straight games in the region. But the memory of last season’s disappointment will not adversely affect them this year, Bryan said.
“It might be in the back of our minds a little,” he said, “but not too much. We have a lot of new guys on this team who have no memory of that, so it shouldn’t bother us.”
Again, Bonneau was in agreement.
“This is a different year and this is a different team,” he said. “Let’s just hope it’s a different outcome.”