The Wildcats could not improve their Lone Star Conference record against last place Eastern New Mexico University this past weekend – the ‘Cats split a four-game series with ENMU at Greyhound Field.
Behind a solid performance by freshman Tyler Eager, ACU won the opening game 11-8. In a doubleheader on Saturday, the team was swept 13-12 and 17-9. The Wildcats salvaged a split on Sunday with a 13-9 victory.
Head coach Britt Bonneau said the team struggled in the series.
“We had a tough series,” he said. “We started to hit the ball really well though. Some guys on the team came out of their slumps.”
“We had plenty of opportunities to get three wins but we didn’t,” Bonneau said.
“The playing surface wasn’t great which might have cost us some runs,” said starting pitcher Clint Cooper.
The team is now 18-15 overall and 6-6 in the LSC, while the Greyhounds are 11-18 and 2-10.
The ‘Cats were out-hit 17-13 in the first game, but clutch pitching with runners on base kept Eastern New Mexico from pushing across more runs.
ENMU left 11 runners on base in the game including two in the fifth and the bases loaded in both the sixth and seventh innings. Four ACU pitchers combined to strikeout 12 Greyhounds and walk only one batter.
The Wildcats had a 3-0 lead through three innings before scoring four runs in the fifth and two in the sixth to grab a 9-2 lead.
Eager went 3 for 5 and scored three runs. Rodge Macy had two hits in three at bats and knocked in two runs.
Brady Rodriguez and Cooper relieved starter Josh Stone and combined to throw 2.2 innings while giving up one earned run. Stone (4-2) pitched six innings and struck out seven in the win.
Pitching was not on ACU’s side for the doubleheader. The Greyhounds smacked the ‘Cats around for 30 runs and 32 hits as they rallied from two big deficits.
ENMU came back from a 11-2 deficit late in game one. They then overcame a 5-0 hole in the nightcap.
A six-run fourth and a four-run fifth helped Abilene Christian build its lead in the first game.
However, the bullpen consisting of Michael Curtis, Rodriguez, Travis Schuetze and Cooper could not maintain the advantage. The quartet threw two innings and allowed eight runs on nine hits.
In the second game, starting pitcher Austin Palmer had to exit after 2.1 innings of work because of a stiff back. He gave up seven earned runs on five hits. Five of those runs occurred in the second.
“Palmer had to come out early which put stress on our already shredded bullpen,” Bonneau said.
The Wildcats jumped all over starting pitcher Gabriel Hemmer in the finale Sunday. Hemmer stumbled through 1.2 innings while giving up nine runs and six hits.
Catcher Emmett Niland delivered the big blow in the game. With the bases loaded in the first, he doubled down the left field line which scored three runs to put ACU ahead 6-0.
Aaron Lambrix (2-3) claimed the victory on the mound. He threw 6.2 innings while giving up nine earned runs.
The team returns home this weekend to face conference leading West Texas A&M University. The series begins on Thursday at 7:05 p.m.
“We’re going to have to play our best in order to beat them,” Bonneau said. “But I’m glad it’s at our park.”
“They have some of the top hitters and pitchers,” Cooper said. “We need to sweep or take 3 out of 4 to have a good seed in the conference tournament. This series has big implications for the rest of the season.”