By Grant Abston, Sports Editor
The Wildcats split their final Lone Star Conference series of the season against Tarleton State and fell to the third seed entering this weekend’s LSC Baseball Championship.
With Cameron holding a one-game lead over ACU, and Angelo State just one game behind in the LSC standings entering the final weekend of the regular season, both teams swept their final series to finish 1-2 atop the standings. ACU (39-17, 30-14) fell eight spots to No. 25 in Collegiate Baseball’s national poll and will play fourth-seeded Southeastern Oklahoma State in its first game of the post-season tournament.
“I think we’ve been tested and gone through a tough stretch of games,” head coach Britt Bonneau said. “We’re glad that part of the season is over with and we’re looking forward to [the LSC Tournament].”
In Friday’s doubleheader, starting pitcher Preston Vancil had perhaps his best pitching performance of the season, leading ACU to a 7-1 in game two to split the doubleheader after losing game one 3-2. Vancil improved to 3-4 on the season after pitching a complete game, allowing one run on seven hits while striking out 13 in nine innings.
In the top of the first inning, left fielder Davis Page hit a one-out double before catcher Jordan Schmitt hit a home run to put the Wildcats up two. Right fielder Travis Latz followed Schmitt with a solo home run before first baseman Bret Bochsler capped the inning off with a three-run home run, scoring shortstop Willie Uechi and designated hitter Cameron Watten.
The 6-0 first-inning lead would be more than enough for Vancil as ACU won 7-1 to earn a split Friday. Offensively, Page led the Wildcats with four hits, while Bochsler and Schmitt finished with a game-high 3 RBI.
In game one of Friday’s doubleheader, the Wildcats suffered an extra-inning loss after a bases-loaded wild pitch gave Tarleton State a 3-2 win. After Schmitt tied the game at two in the top of the third with an RBI double, neither team could break the tie going into extra innings. In the bottom of the eighth, relief pitcher Andrew Yacek walked the first batter he saw before a sacrifice bunt put a runner on second with one out. After an intentional walk, Yacek gave up a single to load the bases and followed with a wild pitch that allowed the Texans to grab the win.
Starting pitcher Cooper Page earned a no-decision after pitching five innings, allowing two runs on six hits, while Yacek fell to 3-2 with the loss. Watten and Schmitt had the only RBI for the Wildcats.
Saturday, Tarleton State bounced back to score three runs in the fifth and sixth innings to win 6-3 in game one of the doubleheader. Starting pitcher Kevin Justice fell to 7-2 after going five innings, allowing four runs on seven hits, while Tarleton State starting pitcher settled down after allowing three runs in the first inning to pitch 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits in the win. Schmitt, Latz and Bochsler had ACU’s only RBI.
“We’ve shown some bright spots but haven’t put everything together in recent weeks, but hopefully it will be different for the tournament,” Uechi said.
In Saturday’s finale, Schmitt became ACU’s single-season RBI leader with 89 after the Wildcats exploded for 12 runs in the final three innings to win 17-11. Relief pitcher Matt Sullivan, one of six ACU pitchers, picked up the win to improve to 4-3, while Brad Rutherford pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to close the game and earn his 10th save.
“I’ve played three years with [Schmitt], and to see him have a great year and to see all the hard work pay off is good,” Uechi said.
Offensively, second baseman Chris Hall, Watten and Bochsler led the team with three hits, while Bochsler and Watten each had a home run and 3 RBI. Schmitt finished 2-6 with 3 RBI, while Latz and Uechi each had two hits and 2 RBI.
The Wildcats now will turn their attention to Southeastern Oklahoma who they will play in the first round of the LSC Baseball Championship on Saturday.
“This team can do a lot of damage, and we’ll wait and see who shows up and how we respond to the tournament atmosphere,” Bonneau said.