By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
It took a while, but Ryan Barker finally remembered how ACU baseball is supposed to be played.
After easily winning the first two road games at divisional opponent Eastern New Mexico Friday, his team fell behind 10-4 after five innings in the last game of the series Saturday. But rather than let a six-run deficit gnaw at them, the Cats hit. And hit some more.
Barker stepped up to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the seventh-and the score knotted at 10. He waited for his pitch and drove it right back up the middle to score senior Brian Johnson from third. Standing on first, Barker soaked up the feeling his eventual game-winning RBI gave him: The Cats were back.
“ACU’s always had a team where it doesn’t matter how far we’re down, we’re going to come back and win,” he said. “This weekend we looked a lot more like the ACU of the past than the team we were for the first half of the season. We came up with the big inning when we needed to.”
The sweep over ENMU gave ACU its seventh straight victory and left the Cats one game out of first place in the Lone Star Conference South at 8-4 behind Texas A&M-Kings-ville (9-3). The three wins also put ACU above .500 (18-16) for the first time this month.
The series with Eastern was easily ACU’s best offensive output against a conference opponent this season. The Wildcats’ 29 runs and 41 hits against the Greyhounds were much better than the 18.6 runs and 30.3 hits they averaged in series with LSC rivals West Texas A&M, Tarle-ton State and Kingsville.
“We haven’t been hitting all year,” ACU head coach Britt Bonneau said. “We waited about 30 games for it to happen, but finally we hit like we know how to. It was just what our team was lacking. It makes it a lot easier for our pitchers to relax and get us victories.”
Senior right-hander Aaron Lawler was solid for ACU in Friday’s opener, pitching 5 2/3 innings and allowing just three hits and one earned run to move to 3-1 on the season.
Sophomore righty Ben Brockman continued to dominate in his Game 2 win, allowing seven hits and striking out nine in 6 1/3 innings to improve to 4-2.
In the third game, freshman Ben Maynard had his first shelling of the season, but the Wildcat bats made it easy for sophomore Andrew Dillman (1-1) to pick up the win in relief.
Junior left fielder Cody Cure continued his success at the plate, batting 5-for-13 with four RBI in the series to give him a .348 average and 20 RBI this season. Barker was 5-for-11 with three RBI and Johnson was 4-for-13 with four RBI to boost the Cats in the series.
After playing regional opponent St. Mary’s at home Tuesday (results were unavailable at press time), ACU welcomes Tarleton State to Crutcher Scott Field Friday and Saturday for a three-game LSC South series.
“We need to keep this up in our remaining games,” Bonneau said. “We need to try to get back into first place in conference and host the conference tournament at the end of the year.”