By Grant Abston, Sports Editor
Despite a come-from-behind victory in game one for Eastern New Mexico, the Wildcat baseball team battled back to win two of three from the Greyhounds and earn a split to remain atop the Lone Star Conference standings.
ACU moved to 28-10 overall and 21-7 in the LSC, one game ahead of Cameron University for first place in the LSC, while Eastern New Mexico improved to 19-16 overall and 14-14 in the LSC. The Wildcats fell three spots in the latest Collegiate Baseball Magazine’s national poll to No. 10 and are one of three LSC teams ranked in the top 30 (Angelo State, Cameron).
“You look at all their wins, and that’s how they win – keep it close and win in the last inning,” head coach Britt Bonneau said. “We played into their hands and got frustrated and didn’t attack their hitters.”
In game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, ACU rallied for five runs in the fourth inning to take a 5-4 lead after center fielder Thomas Bumpass and second baseman Chris Hall recorded RBI base hits and catcher Jordan Schmitt had a two-run single. ACU extended its lead to 8-4 in the fifth after left fielder Anthony Walsh hit a two-run single and Bumpass recorded a sacrifice fly; however, the Greyhounds scored two runs in the fifth and three in the sixth to take a 9-8 lead and steal game one after ACU could not score in the top of the seventh.
Right fielder Travis Latz led ACU with three hits, while Schmitt, Walsh and Bumpass each recorded 2 RBI. Starting pitcher Cameron Aspaas went 4 1/3 innings, allowing five earned runs on nine hits, while relief pitcher Andrew Yacek got the loss after giving up three runs on five hits in one inning of work.
The Wildcats bounced back in the second game of the day, scoring 14 runs on 21 hits to split the doubleheader. After ENMU tied the game at two in the second inning, ACU responded with 12 runs over the final six innings to put the game away. Latz led ACU again, going 4-4 with 4 RBI, including a three-run home run in the third inning. Bumpass also added four hits, while Schmitt and left fielder Davis Page added three hits and third baseman Steve Camilluci had 3 RBI.
Starting pitcher Matt Sullivan picked up his third win of the season to improve to 3-0 after pitching 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits.
“That’s what we’ve expected when we signed [Latz], and it’s good to see that he’s coming around and being the ballplayer that we’ve expected,” Bonneau said.
In Sunday’s doubleheader, the Greyhounds used another late rally to win game one after scoring three runs in the final innings to win 11-10. ACU scored five runs in the fifth inning to take a two-run lead, but a home run by first baseman Seth Clabaugh and an RBI single by designated hitter Jereme Johnson gave ENMU the walk-off win.
Bumpass, Page and shortstop Willie Uechi led ACU with 2 RBI, while Watten had a team-high three hits. Starting pitcher Preston Vancil allowed six runs on seven hits in 1 1/3 innings, and closer Brad Rutherford picked up the loss after allowing three runs in 1 1/3 innings of work.
In game four, ACU used its own rally to earn a sweep after scoring two runs in the eighth and ninth innings. After left fielder Alex Harrison reached after being hit by a pitch and Latz doubled to start the eighth inning, Camillucci had a RBI single and Bumpass recorded an RBI after a fielder’s choice to pull ACU within one. Latz began the ninth with a double, and Bret Bochsler scored Latz after an RBI single to tie the game at six. After Page reached on an infield error and Harrison walked, Camillucci hit a sacrifice fly to score Bochsler and give ACU a 7-6 win.
Starting pitcher Cooper Page earned a no-decision after allowing two run in 4 1/3 innings. Rutherford earned his fifth win of the season, pitching the final two innings and allowing no runs. Latz, who hit .750 for the weekend with 6 RBI, led the team with three hits along with Camillucci, who had a team-high 2 RBI.
“I don’t think we played as well as we can, and we had a few opportunities to put them away in both games, but we didn’t,” Hall said. “A good team never gives up, and we let them hang around, and it cost us.”
The Wildcats next series will begin Friday at 7 p.m. when the Wildcats travel to play Angelo State.