By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
The ACU baseball team secured a spot in the Lone Star Conference Post-Season Tournament April 29-May 1 with a three-game sweep of Eastern New Mexico at home last weekend.
The Wildcats flew by the Greyhounds, 7-4 and 9-3, respectively, in Friday’s doubleheader, then put the icing on the cake with a 10-6 win Saturday.
With the wins, ACU (28-21, 14-7 LSC South) also put increased pressure on division leader Texas A&M-Kingsville (28-20, 15-6) to clinch the LSC South championship. The Javelinas must win two of three games from ENMU in Portales, N.M.-or rely on ACU to lose one of its games to West Texas A&M-this weekend to play tournament host.
Despite securing at least a spot in the tournament, ACU head coach Britt Bonneau said he was more concerned with winning the division outright.
“We weren’t big on [making sure we made the tournament],” Bonneau said. “In fact, it wasn’t even brought up all week. We were more interested in winning our final six games and winning the South. Our mindset was placed a little bit higher, and that helped us this weekend because we’re looking forward to bigger things.”
Kingsville is 2-1 against struggling Eastern New Mexico (15-34, 5-16) this season, having outscored the Greyhounds 13-6 in Kingsville in late February. The question is, can Eastern hang with Kingsville?
“Sure they can; there’s no doubt about it,” Bonneau said. “This is the same Greyhound bunch that swept No. 6 St. Mary’s [March 27-28 in Portales]. The weather’s different out there-it’s windy, it’s a 15-hour drive for Kingsville, and those [ENMU] boys know how to play in Portales.
“If Eastern wants to give us an early Christmas present, that would be great,” Bonneau said.
To help begin wrapping the present, ACU stayed consistent on both sides of the ball to down the Greyhounds.
“We made the plays behind our pitchers and they didn’t,” Bonneau said. “A lot of times they were in good position to score and just hit it right at us.”
Senior Aaron Lawler (5-1) was the winning pitcher in Game 1, allowing nine hits and four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work. Junior right fielder Dan Gubbels had a solid game at the plate with a 4-for-4, three-RBI effort.
In Game 2, sophomore Ben Brockman (6-3) won the game despite a three-run first inning by ENMU.
“Brockman’s always had a tough first inning,” Bonneau said. “I felt no panic at all. [ENMU losing pitcher Thurman] Kelly’s a fastball pitcher, and we’re a fastball-hitting team, so that was no big deal.”
Brockman allowed no more runs and six more hits after the first, and struck out nine batters to increase his season total to 89 (second-highest in LSC).
Senior designated hitter Matt Callahan went 3-for-3 with three RBI in the win.
In Game 3, junior Coy Polk (6-5) recorded the win in relief, while junior center fielder Chris Judkins took his turn batting 1.000 with a 4-for-4, two-RBI game.
ACU prepared for this weekend’s series at West Texas A&M with a single game Tuesday at Division I Texas Tech in Lubbock. Results were unavailable at press time.