The Wildcat baseball team could not improve its .500 Lone Star Conference record after earning a split with Texas A&M University-Kingsville over the weekend at Crutcher Scott Field.
ACU won the first game of a four-game series 4-1. The team then split a doubleheader on Saturday losing the first game 11-0. The ‘Cats defeated Kingsville 1-0 in eight innings in the nightcap. The series concluded on Sunday with a 3-1 Javelina victory.
The Wildcats are now 16-13 overall and 4-4 in the LSC. TAMU-K improves to 15-7 and 4-4. Pitching dominated the weekend as Abilene Christian scored only six runs in the series and just two runs in the final three games.
“We pitched really well in three games and two of those three games we had a chance to win,” head coach Britt Bonneau said.
Junior Chuck Duarte was the hero in the first game. He smacked his first home run as a ‘Cat which was also a walk-off bomb ensuring a comeback victory for the team.
Duarte came to the plate with two on, and no outs of a 1-1 tie in the ninth. He crushed an 0-1 pitch over the wall in left field, giving ACU its second straight late-inning win.
“Kingsville thought I was going to bunt because that’s what I tried to do on the first pitch,” Duarte said. “Coach didn’t give me the sign so I swung away.”
The Wildcats were held scoreless through 7.0 innings by Javelina starter Jaden Dillon. Dillon had four strikeouts and allowed just six base runners.
The Kingsville bullpen opened the eighth with two quick outs but Travis Schuetze walked and Tyler Eager was hit by a pitch. Both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. The TAMU-K pitcher was then called for a balk after stumbling off the mound which tied the score, 1-1.
Converted starter Josh Stone and reliever Clint Cooper (4-2) combined to give up one run on six hits and 11 strikeouts.
“Stone set the tone early in game one,” Bonneau said.
Adam Aspaas (5-1) pitched a 7.0 inning complete game shutout for Kingsville in game one on Saturday. The ‘Cats could gather only five hits versus him. Aspaas induced 16 ground ball outs.
Starter Jordan Herrera and reliever Sam Malchar allowed all 11 runs between the first four innings.
ACU was able to turn its pitching around in the second game that day. Austin Palmer and Cooper returned the favor to the Javelinas as they combined for a four-hit shutout.
Duarte again drove in the game-winning run for the Wildcats. He hit a high chopper to the left side of the mound that tailed away from the Texas A&M-Kingsville closer. The pitcher attempted to make a play at third base, however he could not beat Rodge Macy to the bag and Kyle Conwell crossed home plate with the walk-off run.
“I just flicked a curve ball down the left field line,” Duarte said. “Having two walk-off situations doesn’t happen very often. You dream about doing that.”
In the final game, a mistake by starter Aaron Lambrix cost the ‘Cats a chance at taking the series away from TAMU-K.
In the top of the fourth Kingsville reached on an infield single to start the inning. The next batter dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner. Lambrix unfortunately, fielded the ball and threw it wide of first base allowing the Javelinas to score from first.
A second unearned run was charged to Lambrix later in the inning to make the score 3-1.
“We weren’t able to regroup after that inning,” Bonneau said.
ACU had a chance for late-inning heroics in the ninth. Luke Mejia was hit by the first pitch of the inning. Schuetze followed with a strikeout. Eager then smashed a double in right-center field to put the tying run in scoring position.
But the Wildcat offense stalled at the wrong time. Kevin Finklea struck out for the second out and Conwell lined out hard to end the game.
The ‘Cats are back in action Friday in Portales, N.M. for a four-game series with Eastern New Mexico University.