LUBBOCK – A five-run first inning for Texas Tech and a West Texas Haboob combined to beat the ACU Wildcats, 6-2, Tuesday night in non-conference baseball action at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park.
The loss drops the Wildcats to 7-7 on the season while the nationally ranked Red Raiders improve to 15-3. ACU will be back in action Thursday at 3 p.m. when it takes on Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla. The Wildcats will then return home for a three-game weekend series against East Central (Okla.) with the first game scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m.
Texas Tech, meanwhile, will get Big 12 play started this weekend with a series at Baylor. ACU will be back in Lubbock on April 8 to take on the Red Raiders.
Tech put up five runs in the first inning against ACU starting pitcher Nate Cole, but that was about all the offense the Red Raiders would mount against the Wildcats. ACU chipped back into the game with a run in the fifth and a run in the seventh to make it a 6-2 game.
But in the sixth inning, a dust storm (the aforementioned Haboob) blew in packing 30-40 mph winds out of the north, leaving umpires in the field and defenders in the field defenseless against the blowing dirt. After the Wildcats plated a run in the top of the seventh on Jordan Forrester's second RBI of the game, the umpires pulled both teams off the field and put the game into a delay.
After a seven-minute delay and consultation with weather radar, Texas Tech game event personnel and the two head coaches, the decision was made to call the game and put a premature end to the night.
"There was a bigger storm coming right behind it, and we were told it would be at least one hour before we could start again," ACU head coach Britt Bonneau said. "At that point, the umpires and the players in the field were having a hard time seeing the ball, and I didn't want anyone to get hurt. We came up here and competed hard for the time we were out there, and at that point I was more interested in everyone getting home safely."
The Red Raiders – ranked No. 23 in the country in the USA Today Coaches' poll – jumped on Cole for five runs and four hits in the first inning. Stephen Smith and Alec Humphreys led off the inning with back-to-back singles before Jake Barrios drove them both in with a two-run double to left-centerfield.
Cole then hit Eric Gutierrez before Adam Kirsch double to center field to drive in Barrios to make it 3-0. Ryan Long then drove in Gutierrez with a sacrifice fly to center field to make it 4-0, and Kirsch scored the inning's fifth run on a Matt Broadbent sacrifice fly. Cole was ahead in the count to Smith (0-2), Humphreys (1-2), Barrios (0-1), Gutierrez (1-2) and Broadbent (0-2) in the inning, but couldn't put them away.
Once out of the rough first inning, however, Cole settled in and went another 3 2/3 innings, allowing just four hits and one run over that span. He set the Red Raiders down in order in the second, gave up a walk and a single in the third (neither scored) and got a double-play ground ball to help him get out of the fourth.
He gave up a triple and a run-scoring groundout in the fifth and another double before he was lifted in favor of Brady Rodriguez. ACU's relief pitcher only gave up one hit and struck out three Red Raiders in his 1 1/3 innings of work.
"In the first, Nate missed a couple of pitches when he was ahead in the count and that obviously hurt us," Bonneau said. "But then he settled down and threw like the Nate Cole we expect to see every time he takes the ball. He's our horse, and the guy we want in these types of games. He missed his location on a couple of pitches in the first, and that's going to hurt you against a good team like Texas Tech."
Texas Tech starting pitcher Dylan Dusek (2-0) kept the Wildcats in check, working five innings and allowing just four hits and one run while striking out four batters.
But ACU got a run back in the top of the fifth when Gunnar Buhner led off the inning with a single and then came around to score on a two-out RBI double to right-centerfield by Forrester.
After the Red Raiders got that run back in the bottom of the fifth to make it 6-1, the Wildcats got another run in the top of the seventh. With one out, Colton Hall singled up the middle and then went to third when Seth Spivey doubled to left field. For Spivey, the double extended his hitting to 19 straight games dating back to the last five games of the 2013 season (he has a hit in all 14 games this season).
Forrester grounded out to second base to plate Hall to make it 6-2. However, Tech pitcher Corey Taylor got Kyle Giusti to ground out on a comebacker to the mound to end the inning. After that final out, the game was eventually called.
"What this team has done all year is show that it will fight," Bonneau said. "We're young, so people are able to pitch to us a little bit. I like the way we strung a few things together and got a couple of runs on the board. I like the way Brady came in and threw and gave our dugout a little bit of life and confidence. We got enough work in today to get better and that will help us down the road."