By Joel Weckerly, Sports Writer
In one weekend the ACU baseball team achieved two more goals it had been striving for all season: a third straight Lone Star Conference tournament championship and a fifth straight 40-win season.
The Wildcats were successful with both of those by sweeping past the competition in last weekend’s LSC post-season tourney at Crutcher Scott Field.
The Cats started off Thursday with a 12-5 first-round victory over Southwest Oklahoma State, then knocked off Tarleton State 6-1 on Friday. After Tarleton beat Central Oklahoma in a loser’s bracket game Friday night, ACU pounded the Texans 17-3 in the championship game on Saturday.
The three wins pushed the Wildcats past the 40-win barrier, and they currently stand at 41-12 on the season, good for a No. 6 Division II national standing.
The tournament championship virtually guaranteed ACU a spot in the South Central region tournament May 16-18. Prior to the LSC tourney, the Cats were ranked third out of five teams in the regional standings.
“It felt great to win,” junior outfielder Creighton Bryan said. “It was pretty much a must-win situation for us to get into the regional.”
The tournament wins also gave ACU 11 straight victories, a record for the team this season.
“It was just a matter of us all getting up at the right time,” Bryan said. “We’ve had it all year, but I think we were just extremely focused and set on our goals around conference time.”
Junior outfielder Marcelino Escalante agreed.
“Winning these last 11 games has really helped us out in the region,” he said. “We stepped it up a notch towards the end to make sure we could get in the tournament and qualify for the region.
“We’re pretty excited,” Escalante said. “This is what we’ve worked for all season, and it feels good knowing this was our goal and we’ve accomplished it.”
The Wildcats didn’t win a game in the tourney by less than five runs, making the championship appear relatively easy for them to clinch.
“We were just on track all weekend,” Bryan said. “We got pitches to hit and we hit them well. Everything was clicking for us, and it all came together at the right time.”
Due to the overall solid play, seven ACU players out of the 13 total made the All-Tournament Team. Senior pitchers Frankie Keller and Corey Tidwell qualified after notching wins in the tourney. Junior shortstop Oscar Vargas made the team, as did junior third baseman Brad Massey. Bryan and junior outfielder Ryan Barker were two of the Team’s outfielders, while senior first baseman Brandon Stover was the Tournament Most Valuable Player.
ACU hits the field again 1 p.m. Saturday for a doubleheader at St. Edward’s for its final regular season games. The Cats swept St. Edward’s in a doubleheader at Crutcher Scott Field April 16. The doubleheader will be ACU’s last games until the regional.
“If we keep playing like we did this past weekend, there’s no reason we shouldn’t keep winning,” Escalante said. “Our pitching and hitting are hot right now. We should take the region.”