It’s safe to say few people enter a game with the thought of a cycle on their mind, and for junior outfielder Matt Muñoz that was true as well.
“If it happens, it happens. My goal is to try and do as much as I can to help this team,” Muñoz said.
However, on Friday night against Houston Baptist, it did happen for Muñoz, as he orchestrated a 5-for-6 night at the plate and become just the third Wildcat ever to hit for the cycle. He joins Marc Thompson who hit for the cycle in 1999 and Adam Thomas who was the last Wildcat to do so in 2001.
Muñoz sandwiched a fifth-inning triple and a seventh-inning double between his single in the first inning and eighth inning home run to complete the feat.
“Friday night was definitely a night to remember; I’d always see some guys in the Majors do it but never thought that I would do it myself,” Muñoz said. “It was just a really surreal moment and to be the third guy to do it in ACU baseball history was just really cool.”
Head Coach Britt Bonneau, who hit for the cycle his freshman year at the University of Oklahoma and has seen all three cycles here at ACU, said what Muñoz did on Friday night was impressive.
“You know it’s kind of cool to be a part of one,” Bonneau said. “That is a hard thing to do, everything has to work out right for you.”
But while everything worked out for Muñoz on Friday, he has been one of the offensive leaders all season for the Wildcats. Muñoz is third on the team with a .349 batting average and tied for tenth in the Southland Conference. His six triples this season are also tied for tops in the conference.
But that doesn’t mean his triple in the fifth inning of Friday’s game came easy. Muñoz said that was the toughest hit to come by to complete the cycle.
“Probably the triple, because when that happened I didn’t really think I was going to be able to make it because it was right down the first baseline, but coach just kept on sending me,” Muñoz said.
For his efforts over the weekend, Muñoz also earned honorable mention Southland Conference Hitter of the Week. Bonneau said Muñoz, who is also second on the team in runs, scored with 28 and stolen bases at a perfect 10-for-10 and has provided consistency in his first season as a Wildcat.
“He really is doing a good job of understanding his swing and the more consistent he gets at that and just doing those things, he’s become a really good hitter throughout the year,” Bonneau said.
In fact, Muñoz has really evolved as of late, producing 15 of his 38 hits over the last seven games and .600 batting average over the last five. But that production didn’t come without a brief slump that Muñoz said took returning to the fundamentals to break out of.
“During that rough patch, I just talked to my parents, and they really motivated me more,” Muñoz said. “And just going back to the basics like when I was at junior college, hitting more in the cages and just doing the little things to help me out on the field.”
More specifically, Muñoz said that looked like keeping his swing short and sweet.
“Just doing my routine and I’ve gotten some help from the coaches on things I can work on and that’s just really helped me a lot on just staying short,” Muñoz said. “That’s the main thing, just staying short and not keeping my swing long.”
By keeping his swing under control Muñoz has helped the Wildcats to an 18-17 mark, which matches their highest win total since 2014 when ACU began the transition to Div. 1.
With Muñoz’s bat hot and key players like freshman Dalton Dunn returning from injury, the Wildcats will look to stay hungry and aggressive for more wins like Tuesday night’s historic 4-2 victory over TCU. And for Muñoz hopefully that aggressiveness and hunger will transform in the moxie some of his favorite MLB players exhibit.
“Honestly, they’re infielders, but I like how [Francisco] Lindor and Javier Baez play, they’re really aggressive and they play the game the right way and just love showing emotion.”
Muñoz and the Wildcats are back in action in Beaumont this weekend against Lamar, and they are hoping to make a move in the conference standings with just 12 games left.