By Grant Abston, Sports Editor
With one Lone Star Conference series remaining in the regular season, the baseball team will travel to Tarleton State this weekend with the hopes of capturing the LSC regular season championship.
Despite losing three of four to Cameron University last weekend, the Wildcats (37-15, 28-12) are tied atop the LSC standings with Cameron and could win the regular season championship with one more win than the Aggies in the season’s final LSC series. Cameron, which holds the tiebreaker, will play Southwestern Oklahoma State, while ACU will be on the road against sixth-place Tarleton State (23-26-1, 20-19-1).
“[Tarleton State] has some good arms, a good defense and have scrappy hitters; they get in there and compete,” head coach Britt Bonneau said. “They have kind of turned their season around at the end and are playing very well. They are coming off three of four wins against Southwestern, so you know it’s going to be tough.”
The Texans come into the series after winning three of four from Southwestern Oklahoma last weekend before losing a non-conference matchup to Incarnate Word on Tuesday. Tarleton ranks ninth in the LSC with a .312 team batting average and seventh with a 6.50 team ERA. The Texans average just under eight runs a game and are led by designated hitter Keith Peacock (.374), left fielder Austin Evans (.368) and first baseman Chris Casazza (.367). Casazza ranks first on the team in homeruns (10) and RBI (47), while Peacock leads the team with 65 hits.
On the mound, the Texans will rely on starting pitchers Danny Morris (5-5, 6.05 ERA) and P.J. Burns (3-5, 6.12 ERA). Relief pitcher Brent Lewis leads the team with a 5-1 record, 3.03 ERA and three saves.
ACU enters the series still leading the LSC with a .349 team batting average, led by short stop Willie Uechi (.411), centerfielder Thomas Bumpass (.411), catcher Jordan Schmitt (.394) and second baseman Chris Hall (.388). Uechi, Schmitt and Bumpass rank one, two and three in the LSC in hits, while Schmitt ranks first on the team with 10 homeruns. Schmitt comes into the series leading the LSC with 81 RBI and needs just 6 RBI to break former Wildcat Mike Elkerson’s single-season RBI record. Outfielder Travis Latz, who ranks second on the team with 10 homeruns and 40 RBI, has come on strong toward the end of the season and also will be important to the Wildcats’ success.
The ACU pitching staff comes into the weekend ranking second in the LSC with a 5.02 team ERA. Starting pitcher Cameron Aspaas (7-2) ranks fifth in the LSC with a 4.12 ERA and is second on the team in wins. He will join starters Preston Vancil (2-4, 4.35 ERA), who leads the LSC with 83 strikeouts, and Cooper Page (2-1, 5.51 ERA), while relief pitcher Kevin Justice (7-1, 3.75 ERA) and closer Brad Rutherford (9-3, 3.09 ERA) will be key to the Wildcats’ success on the mound. Rutherford ranks second in the LSC in wins and first with nine saves.
“We have to get our starters deep in the ball game, and that’s the only way to win the conference tournament,” Bonneau said. “We will try some new pitchers out and try to find one to two starters going into the [LSC tournament] to piggy back Aspaas and Vancil.”
The series will begin with a doubleheader Friday at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and will conclude Saturday with a doubleheader at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.