By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
The resurgent ACU baseball team will dangle its nine-game winning streak before visiting Tarleton State this weekend in a three-game Lone Star Conference South series at Crutcher Scott Field. Head coach Britt Bonneau’s second-place Wildcats are hoping for a sweep over the struggling Texans (14-22, 4-7 LSC South) and a slip from first-place Texas A&M-Kingsville (18-14, 9-3), which holds a one-game lead over ACU.
“They’re always tough,” Bonneau said of Tarleton, a team ACU took two of three games from Feb. 27-28 in Stephenville. “We play each other real tough every year, and it’ll be a pivotal weekend for us and them.”
In ACU’s two wins over TSU this year, each game went 10 innings and was decided by one run.
Entering the series, Tarleton has lost six of its last seven games, including Tuesday’s 9-8 loss to McMurry in Abilene. The Texans have a team batting average of .312 and a team earned run average of 6.51.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, are on nothing less than a tear. Since wallowing to an 11-16 (4-4 LSC South) record following a pair of home losses to Kingsville March 13, the Cats have won nine straight to improve to 20-16 and 8-4 in the division.
On Tuesday, ACU proved it was a worthy contender for the LSC South title by sweeping by St. Mary’s, a team that was ranked No. 6 by Collegiate Baseball magazine prior to the series, with scores of 6-0 and 6-2. ACU also won the season series 3-1 over St. Mary’s (29-4) after splitting with the Rattlers Feb. 1.
“That’s got to be a confidence boost to beat the No. 6 team in the nation three out of four times,” Bonneau said. “Our team’s finally playing the way I thought we could play before the season started.”
Senior left-hander Sam Hall (2-2) pitched the complete-game shutout in the Game 1 win over St. Mary’s, scattering five hits with three strikeouts.
At the plate, junior outfielder Cody Cure led ACU with a 3-for-4 effort and one RBI.
In the second game, junior righty Coy Polk (4-3) picked up the win in relief, while senior outfielder Brian Johnson led the Wildcat bats with a 2-for-4, three-RBI effort.
“It was a good test for us, and we obviously passed it,” Johnson said. “It’s a relief to have both our pitching and hitting going for us. We’re playing some of the best ball we have all season.”
ACU will try to extend the win streak starting with the first game at 2 p.m. against TSU, in which senior right-hander Aaron Lawler (3-1, 4.58 ERA) will face Tarleton’s Dustin Holland (5-2, 5.51 ERA).
Friday’s 4 p.m. nightcap will feature ACU sophomore ace Ben Brockman (4-2, 3.44 ERA) against the Texans’ Kerry Schindler (2-3, 7.17 ERA).
ACU freshman Ben Maynard (4-1, 4.86 ERA) will throw against TSU’s Tito Alaniz (3-3, 5.85 ERA) in Saturday’s nine-inning 2 p.m. game.