For the first time in five meetings since the Div. 1 transition, ACU defeated TCU 4-2 in an 11-inning game that spanned nearly four hours.
The Wildcats had come within three runs in three of the last four meetings between the two teams and had played TCU to a 4-3 loss in 2015.
Junior outfielder Derek Scott, who scored a late inning insurance run for the Wildcats, said the win was a relief after playing teams like TCU close in the past.
“We go out there every game expecting to win, but we also know as program we haven’t been able to get over that hump against a big-time team like TCU,” Scott said. “So being able to get that final out really did feel good, I know all the guys enjoyed it last night.”
The Wildcats entered Tuesday night after a wild and windy weekend left a bitter taste in their mouths, coming away with just one win in a three-game series against Houston Baptist.
ACU jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after a ground out by freshman Dalton Dunn was just enough to score freshman Caleb Kyle from third, but each team were stifled by the opposing pitching staff until the fifth inning. Junior Ryan Knowles got the start for ACU and worked around two hits and two walks to keep the Horned Frogs scoreless in three innings of work. TCU’s Jared Janczak started the game, but was relieved after his lone inning of work. The two teams would combine to use a total of 10 pitchers in the game.
Head coach Britt Bonneau said heading into the game he expected to see a wide variety of pitchers by both teams.
“You end up using guys on the mound that you didn’t use on the weekend,” Bonneau said. All it does is help those guys. These guys that haven’t pitched a lot.”
The Wildcats added to their lead in the top half of the fifth inning when Dunn earned his second RBI on the night, with a double to left center that would score junior Koby Claborn from first. Dunn finished the day 3-for-5 with two RBIs. But TCU responded in the bottom half tying the game on a sacrifice fly A.J. Balta, which plated Coby Boulware and tied the game at two.
However, once again both pitching staffs silenced their opponents bats until the 11th inning. JuCo transfer Brennan Lewis gave the Wildcats 2 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball before handing it over to JuCo transfer Garrett Hutson, who would eventually get his fourth win of the season after three scoreless innings of his own.
ACU eventually broke the scoring drought in the top of the 11th with a little help from the TCU defense. Junior Matt Munoz, who hit for the program’s third-ever cycle over the weekend, got on base to start the inning after being hit by the Horned Frog’s closer, Durbin Feltman. Sophomore catcher Lane Bourland followed Munoz, drawing a four-pitch walk and Munoz advanced to third after a sacrifice bunt by freshman Seth Watts was misplayed by the TCU defense.
Feltman rebounded to strike out freshman Zach Smith, but hit Kyle on 1-2 count, which brought home Munoz and proved to eventually be the game-winning run. The run also marked an end to Feltman’s 25 inning scoreless streak. The Wildcats added some cushion when Scott walked on four pitches and Bourland trotted home, pushing the score to 4-2.
In the bottom half, Hutson got a little help from his defense and after allowing a lead-off single to Boulware slammed the door shut with back-to-back line outs and a strikeout.
Although TCU has not been its historically dominant self this season now at 18-14 overall, the Horned Frogs had won four straight before ACU came to town and stole the show in extra innings fashion. With the win the Wildcats improve to 18-17 on the season and will look to keep the momentum going against Lamar this weekend.
“If we keep improving the way we are, we can play some good baseball down in Beaumont and we really need to do that,” Bonneau said. “We just have to see how that goes. We need to get guys healthy.”
Lamar has had its fair share of struggles at 11-26 overall, but sits two spots in front of ACU in conference play at 6-12. Last season, the Cardinals took 2-out-of-3 from the Wildcats in Abilene.
“We know we’ve got to win some games, we can’t wait around,” Scott said. “So we’re going to go in this weekend and our goal is to win Friday and take it one game at a time and hopefully get the series win this weekend if not sweep and then come back again next Tuesday and get a win.”