The Wildcats hosted the Wildcat Invitational this past weekend, finishing with a 2-3 tournament record.
This is the first time ACU has hosted a tournament at Poly Wells Field since 2019 and it’s the first since moving into the Western Athletic Conference.
“I didn’t really anticipate how much pressure the team put on themselves to go out and start the season really strong,” head coach Abigail Farler said. “That added some extra unnecessary pressure going into Friday, but once they relaxed and settled in on Saturday, I thought that we showed a better picture of what the team we plan to be this year.”
The weekend started off on a hard note for the hosting team. On Friday, the Wildcats faced Texas A&M – Corpus Christi, resulting in a loss, 3-11, and the University of Texas at El Paso, ending in a loss, 2-12.
Junior pitcher Riley White started on the mound for the Wildcats against the Islanders for 1.1 IP and was later followed by junior pitcher Talia Nielsen and graduate pitcher Lauren Schiek.
Texas A&M-CC started off strong in the first inning, putting the Wildcats in a quick 3-run deficit. The second and third inning would mirror the same, but the Wildcats were able to score two runs in the third by a sacrifice fly and a double down right field. ACU would score one run in the fourth inning, but the Islanders would counter back with two runs in the sixth inning, forcing the final score, 11-3.
Later that day, Schiek led the way for ACU to take on UTEP for their second tournament matchup. With no runs in the first innings from both teams, it took a minute for the teams to warm up, but once the Miners got going, they didn’t stop. UTEP was able to gain four runs compared to the Wildcat’s one run in the second inning and had a similar stance in the third inning with the Miners taking two more runs. In the fourth inning, UTEP was able to double its score, while in the fifth inning, ACU was able to gain one more run, pushing the overall to 12-1.
Going into the second day, the Wildcats held an 0-2 record preparing to host Murray State and UTEP for a second time. This day turned around for the Wildcats and they were able to secure two wins, with Murray State, 13-12, and UTEP, 8-2.
“Bouncing back on Saturday really mattered for the team to see how tough they are,” Farler said. “Their willingness to fight for what they want this season having everything that could go wrong did go wrong on Friday. For them to have a short-term memory, learn from it and then just move on was really important.”
With White leading ACU on the mound again, the offense was able to balance her strategies, leading ACU to go up 3-0 after the first inning. The Racers were able to close the lead in the second inning by one run but senior infielder Shaylee Alani brought back the three-run deficit with a three-run home run. Going into the sixth inning, the Wildcats were leading 12-5 securely until Murray State had a scoring run and gained seven runs off of ground balls. With the 12-12 score, the game was pushed into the eighth inning until senior outfielder Mercedes Eichelberger singled up the middle, sending sophomore outfielder McKenley Clark home, walking it off for the Wildcats, 13-12.
A few hours later, UTEP was coming back for a sweep but ACU changed the game. It started off at a slow pace until freshman infielder Sammie Shelander ended it with a two-run home run in the fourth inning. Gaining her second win of the season Nielsen pitched all seven innings, holding back UTEP’s offense. The Miners gained two runs in the fifth inning but ACU would broaden the lead by six at the end of the sixth inning, forcing the games final score, 8-2.
Closing out the weekend, the Wildcats took on Texas A&M-CC and fell once again, 3-6.
Nielsen started again for the Wildcats for 3.1 innings with redshirt freshman pitcher Bubba Rote following for 3.2 innings. The game had a slow constant pace throughout, with Texas A&M-CC scoring in the first inning and ACU in the second. The scoring held off for the third inning until the Islanders picked it back up for the fourth inning. ACU later scored in the seventh inning, closing out the final score, 3-6.
“We are excited to go play in some really cool stadiums and get to play some new opponents and some opponents like Lamar that we are very familiar with,” Farler said. “Getting to go on the road and just be all in together and minimize distractions, I think, is what we’re looking forward to.”
The Wildcats next take on the UTSA Tournament in San Antonio and San Marcos this weekend. ACU will face Lamar at 12 p.m. and UTSA at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Lamar at 12 p.m. and South Dakota State at 5 p.m. on Saturday, and closing out the tournament against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
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