ABILENE -- East Central used two big innings and steady work from its starting pitcher and last reliever to finish off a two-game sweep of the ACU Wildcats with a 9-5 win Sunday at Crutcher Scott Field.
The Tigers' two-game sweep is their first ever series sweep of the Wildcats in baseball and pushes their record 13-10 on the season. The slumping Wildcats, meanwhile, fall to 7-10 on the season. ACU has lost 8 of its last nine games, all in the last 12 days.
ACU will get a much-needed five-day break before they return to the field Saturday and Sunday in Normal, Ala., against Alabama A&M. The teams will play a doubleheader Saturday and a single game on Sunday.
A big part of the loss can be blamed, once again, on ACU's inability to drive in baserunners. ACU left 13 runners on base in the loss to the Tigers, and has left 83 runners on base in last nine games, including 12 against Oklahoma State on Thursday, 10 against East Central on Friday and 13 on Sunday.
ACU left a baserunner at third base in the first, second and fifth innings Sunday, and left runners at first and second in the sixth with a chance to at least tie the game. ECU's starting pitcher, Robert Buitrago, did a solid job in 4 1/3 innings of work, holding the Wildcats to four hits and one walk while striking out one batter.
He got out of the first inning with a strikeout of Russell Crippen, and got out of the second with a pair of groundouts before exiting the game with one out in the bottom of the fifth. ACU would get single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to make it a 4-2 game, and then take a 5-4 lead with three runs in the bottom of the seventh, two of them coming home on an RBI double by Crippen, and the lead run coming home on an RBI single by Tyler Eager.
But the lead didn't last long.
ACU reliever Brady Rodriguez (0-2) came on to start the eighth and immediately gave up a single up the middle to Ethan Gold and then back-to-back bunt singles to Casey Chenoweth and Andrew Ayrado to load the bases. Chenoweth's bunt hugged the third-base line, rode the chalk for a few feet and then jumped back into fair territory for a hit. On Ayrado's bunt, both cornermen charged on the play and when Rodriguez fielded the ball and turned to throw to first, Crippen was backpedaling to the bag, but didn't get back in time to get Ayrado.
Leadoff hitter Josh Lavender made the Wildcats pay with a three-run triple over Eager's head in centerfield to give the Tigers a 7-5 lead. East Central would tack on two more runs on sacrifice flies to make it a five-run inning and a 9-5 lead. Merrick Ardoin gave up a pair of hits and a walk in two innings of work, but nothing else as he cleaned up the last two innings for East Central.