By Grant Abston, Sports Editor
Texas Wesleyan University kept ACU scoreless over the final six innings Wednesday night to hand the Wildcats just their third loss in the last 16 games in a nonconference matchup in Fort Worth.
The Wildcats fall to 14-5 overall and remain in first place in the Lone Star Conference with a 10-2 record, while the Rams improved to 16-4 overall. The Wildcats, which ranked No. 3 in the Collegiate Baseball Division II poll, will continue LSC play Friday against West Texas A&M in a four-game series at home.
“We didn’t really play our best game and didn’t hit the ball and swing together,” shortstop Willie Uechi said. “It was just one of those games that we didn’t play our best.”
ACU’s offense started quick Wednesday, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. After consecutive singles by center fielder Thomas Bumpass and shortstop Uechi, catcher Jordan Schmitt singled to left field to give the Wildcats 2-0 lead. The Rams responded in the bottom of the second inning, scoring two runs before both teams exchanged runs in the third inning to a 3-3 tie.
The Rams took their first lead of the game in the fifth inning after an RBI single by short stop Butch Ballez and extended their lead to two to end the inning. The Wildcats were unable to answer, managing just two hits over the final two innings to lose 6-3.
“They had a couple of cheap hits that fell in, and we didn’t get anything to fall our way, but we should have come out ready to play,” Uechi said.
Starting pitcher Corey Kelly went three innings, allowing three runs on four hits in a no-decision. Preston Vancil picked up the loss, allowing two runs on two hits in one inning of work. Second baseman Chris Hall and Bumpass led ACU with two hits, while Schmitt had a game-high two RBI.
The Wildcats will have a quick turnaround when they face LSC rival West Texas A&M beginning Friday. The Buffaloes are in tenth place in the LSC with a 4-8 record and 8-10 overall, including a seven-game losing streak.
Aaron Richardson (1-2, 3.24 ERA) and Spencer Head (1-1, 4.15 ERA) will lead a Buffalo pitching staff that is allowing almost six runs a game. Offensively, WTAMU is averaging 7.5 runs a game; outfielder Rob Mann leads the team in RBIs, (25), home runs (5), doubles (7) and hits (24).
“They are a big, physical hitting team, which is a scary thing, but hitting wise, we should be able to matchup with them,” head coach Britt Bonneau said.
ACU won three of four last weekend against LSC opponent Texas A&M-Kingsville and has averaged almost nine runs in conference games. Outfielder Anthony Walsh leads the team with a .484 batting average, followed by Uechi (.419) and Hall (.392). Uechi leads the team with 31 hits and seven doubles, while Schmitt leads the team with six home runs and 31 RBI.
ACU’s pitching staff holds a 4.77 ERA and is led by starting pitcher Cameron Aspaas. Aspaas (4-0) has won every game he has started and leads all starting pitchers with 1.35 ERA. Relief pitchers Kevin Justice (4-1, 2.55 ERA) and Andrew Yacek (2-0, 3.21 ERA) anchor the bullpen and will be key this weekend.
“I think we have shown glimpses of what we can do, but I don’t think we have really put together that complete game yet,” Uechi said. “I think if we are able to do that and let everything fall in place, I think we will be tough to beat.”
ACU’s first games against WTAMU will be Friday at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The four-game series will conclude Saturday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.