By Daniel Johnson, Sports Writer
The Wildcat baseball team retained its No. 2 rank after outlasting Oklahoma’s Northeastern State in a four-game LSC Crossover Series last weekend.
Even though the team swept its opponents and improved its overall record to 17-2, this series against the 3-14 Redmen served as a test of the Wildcat’s weaknesses and helped expose areas that needed refining, said head coach Britt Bonneau.
“I think we showed that we still have some growing up to do,” Bonneau said. “Thanks to miscommunication, not fielding routine plays and giving up errors, we let this team hang on longer than they should have.”
ACU began the weekend with a 10-4 bashing of Northeastern after solid performances on the mound from starter Ben Maynard and closer Jason Kennedy. Maynard, with an ERA of 5.14 and 2-0 record, gave up one walk and struck out the Redmen five times in six innings. Closer Jason Kennedy put the finishing touches on Maynard’s sound presentation, snatching three strikeouts for himself against the first three Northeastern batters in the final inning.
Following a one-run Northeastern lead at the top of the third, the Wildcats took charge offensively in Friday’s opening game and put up 10 runs in four innings. The Wildcats surprising offensive showing included a two-run home run to left field by outfielder Chris Walsh in the fifth inning.
Once Maynard and Kennedy hung up their pitching hats, sophomore right hander Chris Wiman took the mound for an astounding seven-inning triumph in the Wildcats second game of the night. Wiman, who leads the wildcats with five wins, increased his ERA to 2.14 after posting seven strikeouts and allowing only one hit in the 3-0 victory. After a pitcher’s duel the first four innings of the game, a line drive single to center field by second baseman Thomas Bumpass brought in catcher Jordan Schmitt and broke the deadlock between the teams. The Wildcats were given some breathing room in the sixth, after a two-run triple from Walsh. Wiman pitched the complete game, and his only hit came in the sixth.
“It’s always easier to pitch with the defense backing me up and the hitters coming through,” Wiman said. “Although the runs scored weren’t the highest we’ve posted, it was enough.”
The Wildcats followed their initial victories on Friday with an 8-7 extra inning battle in Saturday’s first game.
The Redmen drew first blood in the third, after capitalizing off two vital ACU errors and scoring five runs on starting pitcher Stephen Miller. The Wildcats came back swinging in the next two innings to tie the game at five runs apiece. After tying again at seven in the seventh, the Redmen handed the game to the Wildcats in the eighth as Northeastern pitcher David Curlee walked in catcher Alec Sowards to end the game. Right hander Brandon Moore picked up the win after shutting down the Redmen offense in the seventh and eighth.
In the final game of the series, ACU fourth game starter Bryan Kennedy was unchallenged, and the Wildcat bats found their rhythm once again in the 8-2 victory. Kennedy scattered four strikeouts and seven hits in six innings and had another solid outing in his second win for the Wildcats. Bonneau said he is hopeful that Kennedy’s recent success will continue into conference and postseason play where a solid fourth pitcher is vital to success.
“We pitched well, and I think we proved that we can win the ugly games,” Bonneau said. “This weekend wasn’t pretty, but it was productive.”