By Daniel Johnson, Sports Writer
With conference play only one week away and two tough out of town series against LSC conference rivals Angelo State and Tarleton State on the horizon, the No. 3 Wildcats are looking to finish off their preseason with a strong showing in their last LSC crossover series against Cameron University.
After falling one spot from No. 2 to No. 3 in the Collegiate Baseball Magazine poll, the Wildcats will attempt to work out all the kinks in the bullpen this weekend. They anticipate their batting line-up to continue hitting well in their last series against a LSC North team before divisional play, said head coach Britt Bonneau.
“We’re going into this weekend to fit the holes we still have in our pitching,” Bonneau said. “It would be great to get four solid games out of the pitching staff and gain some confidence before heading into conference play.”
So far the preseason has been more than successful for the Wildcats, who hold an overall record of 24-4 and lead the LSC in wins, runs scored, team batting average, hits and doubles.
During the break the Wildcats extended their record, picking up wins over Southeastern Oklahoma State, Henderson State, Southwestern Oklahoma State and Texas-Permian Basin.
The Wildcats began their spring break in Oklahoma against the Southeastern Oklahoma State Savage Storm and picked up three wins against Southeastern Oklahoma after losing the first game 5-1. This loss was right-hander Ben Maynard’s first of the season. Behind another successful performance by sophomore Chris Wiman, the Wildcats overpowered the Savage Storm in the second game to win 8-1. Wiman, who leads the wildcats in strike outs, wins and innings pitched, pitched another complete game for the Wildcats, giving up only one run on five hits and two walks.
In the second doubleheader against Southeastern, the Wildcats swept the Savage Storm 10-9 in 10 innings and 8-2 to complete the series.
Following a successful weekend in Oklahoma, the Wildcats moved onward to Arkadelphia, Ark. to take on Henderson State for the second time this season. The Wildcats split a two game series with the Henderson State Reddies and picked up their fourth loss of the season. The Reddies simply out hit and pitched the Wildcats in the first game in a surprising 13-4 loss.
The Wildcats answered back in game two against Henderson State behind the pitching of freshman Ryan Quidley to win 4-2. Quidley allowed only six hits in five innings before handing the ball to closer Jason Kennedy. First baseman Matt McGuire led the Wildcats with two hits, two runs and one RBI. McGuire also currently leads the starters with a .443 batting average.
ACU returned home and after several rain delays and rescheduled games, the team swept Southwestern Oklahoma State on Monday. After dominating the first game 19-2, the Wildcats were challenged in game two. In the first two innings, the Wildcats recorded five runs in what seemed like the beginnings of another blowout. The pace of the game shifted immensely after the Southwestern Bulldogs burst onto the score board with seven runs in the top of the fifth to pull ahead 8-5. Southwestern’s fifth inning rally was highlighted by a three-run home run by right fielder Ryan Pease. The Wildcats fired back in the bottom of the fifth, scoring two runs off of sacrifice fly balls and three more off a home run of their own from freshman centerfielder Thomas Bumpass, to pull ahead 10-8.
The Bulldogs rallied once more in the final inning off another Pease home run, this time scoring two runs to deadlock the game. With extra innings in sight, catcher Alec Sowards ended the slug fest with a game winning solo home run in the bottom of the seventh to pull one run ahead and win the game 11-10.
“I knew what pitch was coming, and our team worked so hard that game, that I told myself I wasn’t going to let this one be a loss,” Sowards said.
The Wildcats’ followed the second game battle with Southwestern State with another in town game against the University of Texas Permian-Basin Falcons the next day. The Wildcats were unchallenged all game defensively and came with everything offensively against the Falcons in the 15-4 win.
After three upcoming out-of-town series, the Wildcats will play their first in-town conference series against the No. 7 Texas A&M Kingsville on the weekend of March 31.