By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
The Wildcat baseball team-winners of 12 of its last 13 games-takes on non-conference opponent Texas-Permian Basin Wednesday in preparation for the most meaningful Lone Star Conference South series this weekend at first-place Texas A&M-Kingsville.
The Wildcats (23-17, 10-5 LSC South) sit three games behind the first-place Javelinas (23-18, 13-5 LSC South) after Kingsville dropped two of three games to Tarleton State last weekend.
ACU was scheduled to play Permian-Basin Tuesday at Crutcher Scott Field, but heavy rain forced the game to be postponed to 3 p.m. Wednesday.
The nine-inning game between the Wildcats and Falcons should be little more than a practice for ACU. One season away from intercollegiate status via the Red River Athletic Conference, the UTPB baseball program has wallowed through a 1-21 2004 campaign.
“I don’t know if you can call it a warm-up game,” said junior outfielder Cody Cure. “Those are the type of teams that can jump up and bite you if you’re not careful.”
The Falcons, who are batting .249 as a team this season, are led at the plate by freshman shortstop Ricky Watkins. Watkins is batting .367 with a team-high 16 RBI.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, took last weekend off but are coming off an emotional 12-11 extra innings win over Division I Dallas Baptist last Tuesday. Junior shortstop Ryan Barker’s two-out RBI single in the bottom of the 11th inning gave ACU the confidence-building win over the 24-8 Patriots.
“That shows how this team has come together this season,” head coach Britt Bonneau said. “I can honestly say that at the beginning of the year, that wouldn’t have happened.”
ACU’s three-game series with the Javelinas begins with a 4 p.m. doubleheader Friday, followed by a nine-inning game at noon Saturday.
The Wild-cats would like a sweep over TAMUK, which got the best of ACU in Abilene March 13-14 by winning two of three games in the series.
“We’re pumped, really,” Cure said. “This is a big series for us and them, and if we win we have a good shot at winning conference.”
While the Cats have won 12 of their last 13, the Javelinas have dropped six of their last 10 games.
Senior outfielder Rick Dyer leads TAMUK in batting with a .412 average, while senior infielder Thomas Melvin has a team-high 40 RBI to go along with a .327 average. Kings-ville’s top pitcher is junior right-hander Garrett Murdy, who is 9-1 with a 2.43 ERA and 113 strikeouts.
“He’s a good pitcher,” Cure said. “He’s probably one of the top two we’ve seen all year. But we put up six runs against him last time, so that’s going to be in the back of his mind when he faces us this weekend.”
For ACU, junior C.J. Goularte is hitting a team-high .381, while Cure ranks second with a .372 average and 25 RBI. Sophomore Ben Brockman leads ACU’s pitching staff with a 5-2 record, 3.09 ERA and 73 strikeouts.