NORMAL, Ala. – The ACU Wildcats were able to slug their way out of their four-game losing streak Saturday afternoon, but couldn't sustain the momentum as they were forced to settle for a doubleheader split with Alabama A&M in non-conference baseball action.
ACU pounded out a season-high 19 runs and jumped out to a 12-6 lead over the Bulldogs before hanging on for a 13-12 win in the first game. In the nightcap, however, the Wildcats' biggest problem this season – runners left on base – came back to haunt them as they left 13 runners on base and gave up six runs in the bottom of the eight inning in a 7-1 loss.
The Wildcats (8-11) and Bulldogs (9-16) will finish out the three-game series Sunday with a single game at 1 p.m. After Sunday's game, the Wildcats will be back in Abilene for their next eight games, including single games Tuesday and Wednesday against Texas College (6 p.m. on Tuesday and 2 p.m. on Wednesday). ACU will then host Incarnate Word next weekend in the first Southland Conference series of the season for both teams before hosting Lamar the next weekend (April 3-6) in another Southland series.
Here's a recap of Saturday's doubleheader:
Game 1 (ACU 13, Alabama A&M 12) -- ACU scored in each of the first seven innings, jumping out to a 12-6 lead before having to hang on for a 13-12 win, snapping a four-game losing streak.
Every Wildcat who went to the plate had a hit and drove in a run and eight of the 10 Wildcats scored a run. Third baseman Kyle Giusti, designated hitter Emil Litterer and rightfielder Colton Hall each had three hits in the game.
ACU led 12-6 before the Bulldogs bounced back with three runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead to 12-9. The Wildcats got the eventual game-winning run in the top of the seventh, however, when Gunnar Buhner drove in Giusti with a sacrifice fly to right field to make it a 13-9 game.
But the Bulldogs came back in the bottom of the seventh to score three runs to make it a 13-12 contest. ACU relief pitcher Brady Rodriguez gave up a run, but struck out Andrew Utterback with the tying and go-ahead runs on base to end the inning.
The Wildcats – who left 10 men on base in the win – had a chance to get a little bit of separation in the top of the ninth, but left runners at first and second when Giusti flew out to center and Buhner struck out looking to end the inning.
But Kevin Sheets made the lead stand up as he came into the game in the eighth and kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard to pick up his second save of the season and make a winner out of Brandon Lambright (1-2).
Game 2 (Alabama A&M 7, ACU 1) -- After an offensive explosion in the first game of the doubleheader, the Wildcats' bats went silent in the second game and a season-long problem reared its ugly head as the Wildcats left 13 runners on base.
ACU collected just four hits, but three Alabama A&M pitchers combined to hand out 10 walks and hit three batters. But the Wildcats couldn't capitalize.
The Wildcats left the bases loaded in the first, two on in the second, one on in the fourth, two on in the fifth, one on in the sixth, one on in the seventh, and three on in the ninth.
Alabama A&M second baseman Jordan Friend made a great diving play up the middle to rob Aaron Draper of a two-run single in the second, throwing him out at first to end the inning. And shortstop Julio Nunez robbed Seth Spivey of a base hit with a great diving catch in the sixth that could have given the Wildcats runners at the corners with two outs.
ACU got its only run of the game in the top of the fifth inning when Spivey walked, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Draper and scored on a two-out single by Brandon Grudzielanek..
Wildcat starting pitcher Garrett Demeyere was solid as he went seven innings, allowing just one run (an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh) and one walk while striking out three Bulldogs.
Austin Lambright was one of four Wildcat pitchers to take the mound in the eighth as he, Sheets, Hunter Wakefield and Mack Morgan combined to give up three hits, three walks and six runs in the inning as the Bulldogs put up six runs to take the 7-1 win. Friend had the big blow with a two-out, three run double that put and end to the scoring.