ABILENE - A handful of costly mistakes made by the Abilene Christian baseball team led to a pair of big innings for the visiting Tigers of East Central in their 8-3 win Friday Night at Crutcher Scott Field.
The two teams will meet again Saturday at 2 p.m. before concluding their series Sunday at 1 p.m.
After cruising through the first 3.0 innings, ACU's Kevin Sheets ran into a heap of trouble during the Tigers' five-run fourth. The inning began with a double by Nick Spini, who raced to third on a sacrifice bunt by David Terrazas. Sheets then issued a walk to the next batter Luc Pomales but got the ground ball he was looking for off the bat of Ethan Gold.
And while it would have been tough for the Wildcats to turn the 6-4-3 double play, they instead got no outs as shortstop Aaron Draper bobbled the ball, which resulted in the Tigers (12-10) having runners at first and second and a 1-0 lead.
Sheets came back with a strikeout of Casey Chenoweth for the second out, but couldn't put away catcher Bryce McKee, who slapped a two-run single on a 2-2 pitch through the right side. Sheets allowed two more base runners that inning on a hit and walk before being pulled in favor of Ty Walker.
Unfortunately, Walker was rudely welcomed to the game by second baseman Garrett Donohoe, who slashed another two-run single that pushed the Tigers' lead out to 5-0.
All but one of those runs were unearned for Sheets (2-1) as he suffered his first loss of the season despite striking out five over 3.2 innings.
The Wildcats (7-9) started to dig out of their hole with a run in the fourth and two in the fifth that came home on one-out single to left by Kyle Giusti, but the offense was relatively quiet the rest of the game.
ACU left two on in the sixth in addition to having a runner picked off first base by Tiger starter Lucas Kaplan who finished his 6.0 innings of work with 128 pitches. And over the final 3.0 innings, reliever Cam McKay gave up just two singles while striking out three in earning his first save of the spring.
The Wildcats had Kaplan in trouble in the second as they put two runners on with one out, but after Gunnar Buhner singled to shallow center Tyler Eager was thrown out at home plate by Ty Huie as he tried to score from second base.
Kaplan would then walk the next batter (one of six) to load the bases before getting Seth Spivey to hit into an inning-ending fielder's choice at second base.
ACU tonight left 10 runners on base and the Tigers stranded nine.
ECU seemingly put the game out of reach against Walker and Russell Crippen with three runs in the sixth inning. A sacrifice fly to left by Donohoe to score Huie gave the Tigers a 6-3 lead, while the next two runs came home on a passed ball and wild pitch.
Brandon Lambright finished the game for ACU, tossing 1.2 scoreless innings with two strikeouts.
Buhner led all Wildcat hitters tonight with three hits. For ECU, Nick Spini went 3-for-5 with two runs and No. 8 and 9 hitters McKee and Huie were a combined 4-for-9 with three runs and two RBI.