The baseball team continued its fight for a spot in the Lone Star Conference tournament in Lawton, Okla., this past weekend, despite rough weather conditions.
The ‘Cats took on Cameron University in a four-game set and unfortunately, could not turn their fortune around against conference opponents this season. The team split with the Aggies by losing the first game 3-0 and the third game 7-2. They won the second and fourth games 17-13 and 13-10 respectively.
“It was a tough weekend,” said Head Coach Britt Bonneau . “There were high winds, tornado warnings and a suspended game. It was hard to maintain momentum.”
Second baseman Chuck Duarte also said the weather was difficult to play in.
ACU is now 22-19 overall and 10-10 in the LSC. The team has split all five four-game conference series this season and sits in fifth place in the league standings, one-half game ahead of Tarleton State University. The Texans travel to Abilene this weekend to take on the Wildcats. The ‘Cats then finish up the regular season next weekend at Angelo State University, who is in a three-way tie for first place with Texas A&M-Kingsville University and West Texas A&M University.
The ‘Cats were victims of a one-hit shutout in the first game against Cameron. Aggie pitcher Clay Vanderlaan froze the ACU offense in 7.0 innings of work. He struck out nine and allowed the only hit to Duarte.
Starter Josh Stone pitched 4.2 innings, allowed two earned runs and struck out four but received no offensive support.
The second game of the series was suspended after the fifth inning due to inclement weather.However, it picked back up on Saturday with ACU leading 9-4. Cameron made a ferocious comeback in the bottom of the fifth putting eight runs on the board to tie the game at 9-9.
“We had trouble throwing strikes,” Bonneau said. “The conditions weren’t ideal but it all goes back to staying focused.”
The team, led by Duarte, responded with five runs in the top of the sixth and three in the seventh to claim the 17-13 victory. Duarte was 3 for 5 and scored three runs. He hit a solo home run to left-center field in the seventh.
“Getting hot this late in the season has really helped the team,” Duarte said. “I’m happy I’m playing and hitting well.”
In the first game of Saturday’s scheduled doubleheader, the Wildcats scored two runs in the top of the third inning , but the Aggies rallied with a single run in the third inning, two in the fourth inning, one in the fifth inning and three in the sixth inning to steal a 7-2 win.
The only players to cross the plate for ACU were Ryan Luckie on an RBI fielder’s choice and Michael Cristiani after he stole home.
The ‘Cats rallied late in the finale to earn a split of the series. Down 10-6 in the eighth inning, the team managed to cross home plate four times and then score three runs in the ninth inning to break a 10-10 tie.
“That last game was huge,” Duarte said. “If we had lost it would have made it much harder to reach the tournament.”
“That’s the difference in us being in last place right now,” Bonneau said.
Mike Keegan, Emmett Niland, Kyle Conwell, Duncan Blades and Duarte all contributed to the comeback. Freshman Tyler Eager had the game tying double to make it 10-10 and Blades knocked in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning.
Pitcher Brady Rodriguez tossed 4.1 scoreless innings of four-hit baseball to finish the game.
“Rodriguez was the key to that game,” Bonneau said. “He came in and threw four shut-out innings.”
Depending on how ACU fares in the next two series, the team could jump several spots in the division standings.
“The LSC is such a tight race,” Bonneau said. “There could be a lot of movement in these last few weeks between all the teams.”