By Grant Abston, Sports Editor
After losing the first two of four games against New Mexico Highlands, the Wildcat baseball team knew the importance of winning the second game of the doubleheader on Saturday to salvage a split of the series.
Not only did the Wildcats bounce back in a big way, but the win proved to be a milestone, giving head coach Britt Bonneau his 500th win as a head coach and running his record at ACU to 500-217-1.
“You never really think about how many wins you have, and it kind of snuck up on me,” Bonneau said. “You look back at all the players we have had play for us, and you just start being thankful for all of them that got to play in a game that we won.”
Despite the win, Bonneau credited his coaching staff, players and the different individuals involved who helped Bonneau become the head coach at ACU.
“It got me thinking about the guys that hired you here when you were 25-years-old, and you wonder why they gave you a shot,” Bonneau said. “I look at guys like Gary McCaleb that pushed hard to get me the job, and I’m real thankful for that.”
In game one on Friday, the Mustangs jumped on the No. 11 Wildcats early, scoring three runs in the second, two in the third, one in the fourth and three in the fifth, as starting pitcher Cooper Paige allowed six runs on 10 hits. The Wildcats managed just six hits to the Mustangs’ 20, led by shortstop Willie Uechi, who had a team-high three hits and one RBI for ACU.
In the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday, the Wildcats scored three runs in the third to take a 3-1 lead after scoring a run on an error and getting RBIs from second baseman Chris Hall and catcher Jordan Schmitt. After starting pitcher Matt Sullivan went 4 1/3 innings, the Mustangs scored four runs in the fifth after two key throwing errors by the Wildcats. A throwing error to first base loaded the bases before Jason Carr hit a bases-clearing double to make the score 4-3. Another throwing error to first gave the Mustangs a 5-3 lead, and the Wildcats never bounced back.
“We weren’t prepared, and if you don’t take care of the baseball, you get beat,” Bonneau said. “Once again, there was a good team finding ways to win.”
Center fielder Thomas Bumpass and designated hitter Cameron Watten led the team with two hits in game two, as the Wildcats lost 7-5.
In the second part of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Wildcat offense came to life, scoring 10 runs on 12 hits. satisfied with where we are at defensively.”
The Wildcats exemplified their commitment to defensive excellence Saturday, keeping UTPB to just 28.8 percent shooting from the floor. ACU also outrebounded the Lady Falcons 53-25 in the contest. The Wildcats’ domination on the glass carried over into the offensive side of the game; ACU scored 21 second-chance points while shutting out UTPB in that category.
Earlier in the season, ACU snuck by UTPB 50-43 in a nail-biter in Odessa. The Wildcats shot only 36.6 percent in the game and turned the ball over 22 times. This time, however, ACU took much better care of the ball and clamped down on defense. Lavender saw many improvements that led to a 40-point blowout win.
“The first time we played them it was close,” Lavender said. “I think our girls did a great job of adjusting for this game, and I really think we are playing better basketball now than we were at the beginning of the season.”
The Wildcats relied on a well-balanced attack in their blowout win over UTPB. The team had six players with seven or more points, and every member of the squad scored and collected at least one rebound during the game. Center Audrey Maxwell-Lively scored nine points and had nine rebounds, while forward Jodie Meyer scored 15 points. Junior guard Kelsey Darby led all scorers in the game with 16 points while protecting the ball at the point guard position. Lavender was pleased with Darby’s overall game against the Lady Falcons.
“Kelsey shot the ball really well and did a great job shooting 4-4 on three-point shots,” Lavender said. “She played point guard some and had only one turnover; I thought that overall she played a good game.”
The Wildcats have six games remaining before postseason play: three at home and three on the road. All six games are against Lone Star Conference South Division opponents as ACU has compiled a 5-1 record. West Texas A&M currently sits at 7-0 in conference on top of the South Division.
ACU was in action Tuesday night against Texas A&M-Kingsville; however, results were unavailable by press time.