Story contributed by Lance Fleming, ACU Associate Director of Athletics for Media Relations
ABILENE – Two old foes will renew acquaintances this weekend as members of a new league as the ACU Wildcats host the Cardinals of Incarnate Word in a three-game Southland Conference baseball series at Crutcher Scott Field.
Both universities are in their first year of transition to NCAA Division I affiliation as members of the Southland Conference. This weekend's series will be the first Southland Conference series that ACU has hosted since Sam Houston State was in Abilene April 20-21, 1973. The Wildcats then joined the Lone Star Conference and were part of that league until June 2013.
The series will get started Friday with a 6 p.m. game, followed by a 2 p.m. game Saturday. The series will wrap up Sunday at 1 p.m. All three games will be carried live on 98.1 FM The Ticket.
This weekend's games mark the first Southland Conference series of the season for each team, and both enter the series in unfamiliar territory: with sub-.500 records.
The Cardinals are 6-15 overall and have lost four of their last five, while the Wildcats are 10-12 after sweeping a doubleheader from Texas College on Tuesday.
ACU will likely be without senior third baseman Kyle Giusti, who had been on a tear in the Wildcats' last 10 games before Tuesday's doubleheader. Prior to Tuesday, Giusti was 19 for 41 in the Wildcats' previous 10 games, and after going 1 for 2 with three runs scored and two RBI in one game and his first at-bat against Texas College, he went down with an injury in the second inning of the season. Giusti suffered an undisclosed abdominal injury that could sideline him anywhere from three weeks through the end of the season.
Without Giusti on the hot corner, ACU head coach Britt Bonneau will shift freshman Brandon Grudzielanek from his normal spot in left field to third base. Grudzielanek has started 19 of the Wildcats' 22 games this season and is second on the team with a .384 batting average and 17 RBI.
The Wildcats lead the Southland in team batting average at .308 ahead of McNeese State (.299) and Sam Houston State (.295). Senior catcher Seth Spivey leads the Southland in hitting at .427, 36 points higher than Chayse Marion of McNeese State (.391). Spivey is fourth in the league in hits (35), third in runs scored (27) and first in total bases (53).
ACU head coach Britt Bonneau (681-336-1 in his 18th season with the Wildcats) will send Nate Cole, Garrett Demeyere and Mack Morgan to the mound to start the three games for ACU. Cole is 1-3 (five starts) with a 6.48 ERA in seven appearances for the Wildcats, while Demeyere is 3-2 with a 2.41 ERA in seven appearances (all starts). Demeyere leads the Wildcats with 26 strikeouts in 41 innings of work, while Cole has 24 strikeouts in 25 innings. Morgan is 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two appearances, although he has only thrown 1 1/3 innings on the season.
ACU's team 5.34 ERA is 13th in a 14-team league, just ahead of the 6.00 team ERA sported by Incarnate Word.
Incarnate Word head coach Danny Heep (now in his 17th season at UIW) will send Geno Encina (2-4, 3.44 ERA), Dylan Boss (0-3, 6.45 ERA) and Jacob Potts (2-1, 4.88 ERA) to start the three games on the mound for the Cardinals.