ACU ranked 10th when preseason Southland baseball rankings came out last season, however, ACU exceeded the preseason expectations by ending the season as the first seed coming into the Southland Conference Tournament. The Wildcats ended the regular season 34-19 with a conference record of 23-11.
The Wildcats 36-win season in conference play is the most-ever wins in a season in school history. It was also the first time in school history that ACU finished as the number one seed.
“It’s so difficult to put this season into words,” head coach Rick McCarty said. “We had a really good group, and I am very proud of them. We set out with some lofty goals and expectations in our third year as a coaching staff and a lot of their second or third year on campus. We got to fulfill those goals at the end of the year.”
ACU bested eighth-seeded Lamar on the first day of the tournament 7-1. Moving onto the second round, ACU faced fourth-seeded Texas A&M Corpus Christi 4-3 after coming from behind and scoring three runs in the eighth inning. ACU then faced the fifth-seeded Sam Houston in the semifinals on day three of the tournament. ACU lost the match of the semifinals 12-14, sending it into an elimination game. The winner of the second game against Sam Houston would continue to the finals to play McNeese state.
After a hard fought battle against the Bearkats, the Wildcats fell to Sam Houston, 15-13, closing out the Wildcats’ historic season and their time as a competitor in the Southland Conference.
“Success breeds success; this group raised the bar for ACU baseball,” McCarty said. “The expectation, as we have discussed, is not .500, is not to make the tournament, but it’s to win championships.”
Following the historic season, McCarty received a contract extension through the 2026 season, just after his third season as head coach. This has led to excitement across the board for both players and the coaching staff.
“This extension shows the commitment to the program from the university,” said assistant coach Craig Parry. “From a recruiting standpoint, the commitment from the university is big and is a great thing to be able to share with recruits. It shows that McCarty and the university are in it to see this organization grow.”
As of the end of this past season, McCarty stood at a record of 69-55 in his first three seasons. His 2021 season with his team led to McCarty being awarded the Coach of the Year honor by the league.
“To keep our leader intact and make a multi-year commitment to him is not a normal thing across college baseball,” said Parry. “For the university and administration to commit to the program and buy in to what is going on here is a big deal.”