The Wildcats secured their second straight Lone Star Conference title with a 6-4 victory over Angelo State on Tuesday.
The Wildcats finished the tournament 4-0 for the second season in a row. Angelo State is also the runner-up for the second season in a row. Head coach Britt Bonneau said the Wildcats’ title streak adds to the program’s credibility.
“After losing three straight, winning two in a row is huge,” Bonneau said. “It’s huge for our program. It puts us on the map.”
The Rams jumped out to an early lead when catcher Chris Adamson hit a single with the bases loaded, scoring two runs. ASU tacked on another run when designated hitter Keith Towne hit a bloop single.
The Wildcats roared back in the bottom of the sixth. Centerfielder Aaron Oliver led off with a double and scored when second baseman Chris Hall drove him in the next at-bat.Cameron Bankston reached on a bunt single to load the bases, and a sacrifice fly by shortstop Willie Uechi pulled the ‘Cats to 3-2. The Wildcats scored two more runs to take a 4-3 lead.
The Rams struck back in the top of the seventh with a solo home run golfed over the left-field wall. Later in the inning ASU appeared poised to take the lead. A runner tried to score from second base and was gunned down at the plate by ACU right fielder Cameron Bankston.
Momentum shifted to the Wildcats in the bottom of the seventh. Aaron Oliver scored from third base on a wild pitch, and an RBI single from Bankston gave ACU a 6-4 lead.
Closer Brad Rutherford came in for his tenth save in the ninth inning, and the Wildcats dogpiled on the pitcher’s mound in celebration of a second consecutive conference crown.
The Wildcats had five players named to the all-tournament team. Second baseman Chris Hall, pitcher Cameron Aspaas, pitcher Brad Rutherford and designated hitter Will Calhoun were named to the team.
Oufielder Aaron Oliver added a tournament MVP to go along with the LSC player of the year title he won at the end of the regular season. He was 7-17 in the tournament with 8 RBI and three home runs. Oliver said the conference title is just the first step for a team with championship aspirations.
“First off, this is the start of what we’ve been working hard for all year,” Oliver said. ” Our team keeps pushing to play better.”
Starter Will Calhoun pitched seven innings, giving up nine hits and walking three batters. He struck out five Rams on the way to his fourth win of the season. Calhoun and the Wildcats fell behind early on at 3-0 but never lost confidence.
“I knew we could hit,” Calhoun said. “I did the best I could to keep us in the game. We knew we could do this from the beginning. We had a lot of support from the fans.”
The Wildcats will celebrate tonight, but they must now prepare for the regional tournament May 13-16. Calhoun said the conference tournament win was great, but his team must keep pushing forward.
“We expect to win regionals and go to the World Series and win the World Series, thats been our goal since day one,” he said.