By Daniel Johnson, Sports Writer
Despite three wins over East Central Oklahoma University in four games played last weekend, the Wildcats baseball team has fallen down a spot to No. 2 in the latest Division II poll behind Georgia College & State University.
After falling to the East Central Tigers in an extra-inning bout 5-4 on Friday’s first game, the Wildcats came back swinging to outscore the Tigers 9-3 in the second game, and 5-3 and 10-0 in Saturday’s games.
“We really let them hang around in the first game; we put ourselves in a position to win, but couldn’t get a final out in the seventh or anything offensively in the extra innings,” head coach Britt Bonneau said. “We took that first loss and really dominated the next three games; our guys adjusted and our pitchers threw three good games.”
With three more wins, the No. 2 Wildcats increased their overall record to 13-2, as they head into a four-game series against Northeastern State at home this weekend.
Thanks to consistent pitching, the Wildcats split the games Friday and swept the Tigers on Saturday.
Although senior pitcher Ben Maynard had seven strikeouts and only allowed four runs in the first game, the Tigers rallied off of relief pitchers Jason Kennedy and Brandon Moore to score the winning run in the ninth. The Wildcats’ four runs came off a two-run double from senior left fielder Johnny Zepeda in the first inning and an RBI each from freshman third basemen Trey Watten and freshman catcher Jordan Schmitt in the second and third innings.
The Wildcats rallied behind unbeaten pitcher, junior Chris Wiman, to outscore the Tigers 9-3 in the second game Friday night. Wiman pitched a complete game with seven strikeouts and two earned runs on three hits in seven innings to extend his record to 4-0.
The good pitching continued through the third game of the series as junior pitcher Stephen Miller put up five strikeouts in five innings. After a 4-0 ACU lead in the fifth, the Tigers scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth off freshman pitcher Ryan Quidley. But an RBI single from junior Matt Maguire in the seventh and two strikeouts from senior Jason Kennedy saved the game, 5-3.
In the final game, junior Brian Kennedy struck out four batters and allowed three hits in all seven innings. Designated hitter Joel Wells led a fifth inning explosion with a two-run homer, and Watten led the Wildcats with three RBI. Kennedy threw a complete game and filled the Wildcats’ need for a fourth starter.
“Kennedy really did great, and he helped us fill that fourth starter spot we have been searching for,” Bonneau said.
Although the Wildcats fell down a spot in the polls, Bonneau said he is still pleased with the team’s current ranking and optimistic about what such a high ranking will do to improve the team’s performance.
“Anytime you are in the top ten you can’t help but feel good about it,” Bonneau said. “The pressure is good for us; it helps us figure out how good our team is. To play at ACU, you have to learn how to play ranked.”