The Wildcats suffered two heartbreaking losses to Lone Star Conference opponent Tarleton State University over the weekend at Crutcher Scott Field.
Looking for their first LSC series win of the season, the ‘Cats failed to win or split the four-game set. Two straight late-innings heroics from the Texans smothered any hopes of a successful final homestand.
“We definitely underachieved this weekend,” junior catcher Rodge Macy said. “We should have at least earned a split.”
“Losses like that really hit your heart and are tough to swallow,” he said.
“Those losses affected me because I know how big these games are,” said head coach Britt Bonneau. “At the same time we’ve seen this team bounce back after tough games.”
The team lost the opening game 5-2 then won the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday 2-1. A 3-2 and 10-8 loss closed out the series against TSU.
The Wildcats drop to 24-22 overall and 11-13 in conference. Tarleton improves to 21-19 and 12-12. ACU is sitting in sixth place in the LSC, only one game ahead of seventh-place Cameron University (10-14 in the LSC). The top six teams qualify for the LSC Tournament.
The ‘Cats will face Angelo State University this weekend in a four-game series to end the regular season. A series win would ensure a spot in the conference tournament.
The Texans escaped six errors in game one by turning three double plays and stranding nine Wildcat base runners. Five of those runners were left in scoring position.
“Anytime a team gives you six extra outs, you need to take advantage of that,” Bonneau said.
Abilene Christian led 1-0 through the first three innings and was tied 2-2 with TSU going into the seventh inning. Tarleton’s leadoff hitter recorded the game-winning hit off a RBI triple to right-center field in the seventh.
Duncan Blades scored the ‘Cats two unearned runs. Josh Stone (5-5) started for ACU. He didn’t allow a run until the fourth inning. Stone finished with 6.2 innings of work, five strikeouts and a walk.
The Wildcats and Texans were scoreless in the first four innings of game two before the team rallied versus Tarleton starter Pete Perez scoring one run in the bottom of the fifth.
Freshman Tyler Eager dropped down a perfect squeeze bunt to bring in Bryce Gerhardt with the first run of the game.
A solo home run off of ACU starter Jordan Herrera in the sixth tied the score, 1-1.
In the ‘Cats final at-bat, second baseman Chuck Duarte singled to center to drive in Kevin Finklea for a walk-off win.
The team was only three outs away from a LSC doubleheader sweep in the nightcap on Saturday however, Clint Cooper could not shut the door. He came in with a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning and walked the first three batters he faced. Cooper was quickly relieved without recording a single out.
Reliever Brady Rodriguez came in for Cooper but he could not escape the jam. TSU eventually tied the game 2-2 and, with the bases loaded, hit a RBI fly out to center field delivering the go-ahead run.
Aaron Lambrix received a no-decision for his efforts. He allowed four hits in 6.0 innings pitched.
The finale was also a tough one to swallow. The Wildcats blew an 8-3 lead in the final three innings in part because of a struggling bullpen.
“We have to be smarter when we have a lead like that and not allow a team to have a big inning,” Bonneau said. “You do that by taking care of the baseball.”
Rodriguez was called upon in the fourth to relieve lefty Austin Palmer. He was fine through his first 3.0 innings but gave up three runs in the seventh, cutting the ‘Cat lead to 8-6.
Stone came out of the bullpen in the eighth after Michael Curtis allowed back-to-back singles. He walked the bases loaded then gave up three runs to give the Texans a 9-8 lead.
ACU still had an opportunity with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Pinch-hitters Ryan Luckie and Michael Christiani were walked to load the bases. Unfortunately, the next batter Finklea was retired on three pitches to end the series.
After the game, Bonneau reassured his team that they still control their destiny but they must be prepared to battle Angelo this weekend.
“I don’t see it as a do or die game, but more of one where we need to bring the intensity,” Macy said.