The Wildcats had their 2022 season home Opening Weekend matchup against Stephen F. Austin, losing the series, 1-2. ACU then met the University of Incarnate Word for a doubleheader Tuesday afternoon.
This weekend’s matchup started the Western Athletic Conference play for ACU by playing one of the toughest teams, SFA.
“It was awesome being home,” assistant coach Jessica Twaddle said. “It was ACU purple night so there were a lot of student-athletes out there and the energy they brought really matched our energy out there on the field.”
Game one Friday night, the Wildcats lose opening night in a sweep, 0-3. Sidney Holman-Mansell, graduate pitcher from Belton, started for ACU on the mound. Holman-Mansell, on her eighth start this season, gathered three hits and six strikeouts in all seven innings.
Mercedes Eichelberger, junior outfielder from Tremonton, Utah, gained two hits, creating a double down the left-field line in the third inning and a single up the middle in the fifth inning. Despite the created opportunities to bring a run home, the Wildcats could not secure the hit.
Eichelberger has a .283 batting average and a .791 OPS, leaving her to be a top leader of the team early on this season. With 13 runs out of 15 hits and an On-Base Percentage of .433, Eichelberger has created a strong offensive game ahead for ACU.
Stephen F. Austin broke away in the fourth inning, with the Wildcats allowing three runs on a wild pitch and a two-run home run.
“We knew it was going to be tough and they have WAC preseason pitcher of the year and she does a really good job,” Twaddle said. “We are starting the year in conference with the toughest game of the year and we get to play them again at the end. It will be exciting to see the different team we become when we play them a second time.”
The double-header on Saturday gave ACU the chance to come back from Fridays’ game.
Game one Saturday afternoon, SFA did not slow down, stealing the win from ACU, 6-2.
The Lumberjacks started off strong, putting a double up the left-field side and an RBI single to center field. SFA scored three more runs over the span of three innings up to the fourth.
ACU managed to gain two runs in the second inning from an RBI triple down right-field and an RBI single but was shut down by Lumberjacks pitcher.
Riley White, sophomore pitcher from Thorndale, started for the Wildcats, pitching for two innings and giving up four runs on seven hits. Lauren Schiek, graduate pitcher from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, came to relieve White, where she pitched for 4.1 innings and gave up two runs on only four hits. Hannah Benavides, freshman pitcher from Deer Park, closed the Wildcats out for the game, pitching .2 innings.
Game two Saturday afternoon, Holman-Mansell was able to bring the Wildcats to a win for the final game, 4-3.
Holman-Mansell had a successful game by striking out nine batters and only giving up three runs on five hits. Holding a 2.33 ERA only 10 games into the season, Holman-Mansell is ninth in the Western Athletic Conference in best ERA this season.
“Sidney did a good enough job on the mound, we could just not send it home at the plate,” Twaddle said.
In the second inning, White hit a 2 RBI single down the left-field line, pulling ACU ahead early on. Yet SFA was close behind gaining two runs in the fifth inning, then pulling ahead by a run in the sixth inning.
Going into the seventh inning, the Wildcats are down a run with the chances of getting swept by SFA. With two outs, Avery Miloch, sophomore catcher from Georgetown, sends a ball up the middle to create a 2 RBI single, securing ACU the win.
The University of Incarnate Word met ACU at home, where UIW swept the Wildcats, 1-3 for game one and 4-5 for game two.
Holman-Mansell and White gained a combined 12 strikeouts and gave up 15 hits over the two games.
Despite ACU creating opportunities by having 14 hits between the two games, the opportunities were not used to the best advantage.
“I am not proud of the way we played today,” head coach Abigail Farler said. “We should have played a good game of softball because we were around our home crowd, but no part of our game was strong and they took advantage of that.”
Both games were close by a run or two so ACU had the chance to pull ahead, but they could not secure the game-winning run.
The Wildcats head on the road to Beaumont to take on Lamar for a doubleheader on Friday at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. and a single game on Saturday at 12 p.m. for their second conference play of the season.