By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
While the ACU community was ankle deep in its summer plans, head baseball coach Britt Bonneau put the finishing touches on his tenth-consecutive winning season.
Despite finishing second in the conference behind rivals Angelo State and failing to advance past the regional tournament, the Wildcats finished the season with their second-best record to date at 44-18.
Their final game of the season was a 5-4 loss to Southern Arkansas in the NCAA Division II South Central Region tournament. Although ACU was the host of the regional tournament, they were unable to advance to the College World Series after losing to West Alabama and Southern Arkansas.
Regardless of the bad taste left in the Wildcats’ mouth at the season ender, Bonneau is proud of his team’s overall success and is optimistic of the program’s future.
“I’ve really got to tip my hat to the seniors last season,” Bonneau said. “They knew they had to help the freshmen get adjusted and play well, and not only did that help us win last season, but it will help them succeed this year as sophomores.”
One of those seniors who permanently secured his spot in both ACU’s record books and the memories of ACU baseball fans is LSC player of the year, NCAA Division II all-South Central Region performer and second team All-American selection Joel Wells.
Wells is the first Wildcat slugger to receive a Second Team All-American selection and broke three and tied one of ACU’s records last season.
In his final season, Wells shattered the previous single-season home run record of 12 after hitting 18 out of the park in 2006. Three of those 18 came in one game against Tarleton State April 1, another ACU record, and Wells finished his career with a total of 26 home runs to tie former wildcat Brad Massey. Well’s completed the season with a .395 batting average and 70 RBI, the second most in the program’s history.
Wells’ accomplishments were recognized at the highest level when the New York Mets drafted him in the 21st round of the MLB amateur draft. Although surprised and honored to be selected, Wells deferred his shot at the major leagues to pursue a career in medicine at Tulane Medical School.
The hopeful surgeon was the fourth player in ACU history to be drafted and the first baseball player from ACU to receive the NCAA post-graduate scholarship to help his attendance at Tulane.
“Twenty-three guys got to watch a kid have one of the greatest years that anyone has had in our program’s history,” Bonneau said. “I always told him he had the potential to do great things, and that is exactly what he did.”
Despite losing a player of Wells’ caliber, Bonneau is confident the players returning and the newly recruited transfers and freshmen will carry on the winning pattern of the last 10 years.
The new recruits include seven junior college transfers and three high school signees.
The role of shortstop and solid closer left open by recent graduate Ruben Rivera may be filled by shortstop J.J. Pacheco from Chabot College and right-handed closer Jameson Maj from Vernon College.
Also new to the Crutcher Scott Field mound are left handers Matt Davis of Butte College and Taylor Chapel of Lake Highlands High School.
Bonneau may call upon newly acquired outfielders Matt Spotanski, Mike Elkerson, Corey O’Neill or Trent Kinnear to fill the outfield positions left open by last year’s graduating class. While in the infield, transfer Jared Votaw and freshman Justin Shults will add depth to the Wildcats’ defense as well, Bonneau said.