The Wildcats will get a taste of Major League Baseball Heaven this weekend.
The baseball team begins its final season as an NCAA Division II program Friday at the Astros in Action D-II Invitational in Houston.
The ‘Cats will play four games at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. The team’s opening game is against the University of Arkansas at Monticello Friday at 10 a.m. ACU will play a night game against NCAA Division II powerhouse University of Central Missouri on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Sunday, the Wildcats face University of the Incarnate Word at 1 p.m. and Monday the squad closes out the invitational with a 4 p.m. contest against Texas A&M University-Kingsville. The invitational will also host Emporia State University, Arkansas Tech University and Tarleton State University.
Senior infielder Chuck Duarte cannot imagine a better way to start off the season.
“For us seniors it’s a chance of a lifetime,” he said. “All the seniors are in awe. It hasn’t really hit us yet.”
“This is a dream come true for a lot of these guys,” head coach Britt Bonneau said. “What a great way for the seniors to start off their last year.”
The Wildcats finished under .500 last season (26-28) after going 24-23 in 2011 and 50-15 in 2010. The team returns a majority of last year’s starters including Duarte, outfielder Tyler Eager, catcher Rodge Macy, utility man Travis Schuetze and pitchers Aaron Lambrix and Austin Palmer.
Duarte led the team offensively last year. He hit .358 with 38 RBI and four home runs.
“I want to keep my momentum going from last year and help those younger guys out,” he said.
“We have a lot of solid guys back,” Bonneau said. “We have some core guys that can really make a difference. They can teach the younger guys the ropes.”
“We have a little different team compared to last year,” Duarte said. “We’ve got more senior leadership than we had last season.”
The newcomers on the squad include catcher/infielder Matt Patterson, right-handed pitcher David Dillard, outfielder Heath Beasley, right handed pitcher Colin Firmin, infielder Brandon Keck and infielder/outfielder Cameron Bonifant.
Macy is expected to start at catcher, Schuetze, Duarte and Seth Spivey are all expected to start in the infield, while Kyle Conwell and J.R. Rowland will be splitting time as the designated hitter. Junior transfer Ty Taylor, Eager and Reed Watson will be expected to anchor the outfield.
Bonneau said he plans on starting right-hander Jordan Herrera on Friday, southpaw Ty Taylor on Saturday and righty Carter Hahn and lefty Palmer on Sunday and Monday respectively.