ABILENE – Abilene Christian (8-6, 1-0 SLC) baseball started Southland Conference play Friday night at Crutcher Scott Field with a brilliant 4-0 win over the defending league tournament champions from Northwestern State (6-5, 0-1).
Junior righty Spencer Chirpich struck out eight batters through 5.0 innings and 100 pitches for his second win of the spring, and senior Hunter Spaeth followed with four hitless innings to earn his first save.
Despite the Demon’s low base-hit total there was plenty of drama to be found from inning-to-inning as they left nine runners on base.
Chirpich left the bases loaded in the first after hitting two batters, and stranded two more in scoring position in the second from after getting Tyler Smith to pop up to Koby Claborn at first base.
Chirpich went on to face the minimum number of batters in the third and fourth, but then in the fifth he battled back to strike out the side after loading the bases on a single and two walks. His eighth and final strikeout victim was No. 5 hitter Peyton Davis.
Spaeth started the sixth inning with a walk before retiring the next three batters in order. Then in the seventh an error by shortstop Rob Salazar immediately was followed by a beautifully spun double play by he and Clarborn. The twin killing started a streak of nine consecutive outs with the final three Demon batters in the ninth all flying out.
The Wildcats’ offense collected eight hits with only one that went for extra bases – a Texas League bloop double down the right field line hit by catcher Lane Bourland that spun toward foul territory after hitting the ground behind the first baseman Davis.
Bourland eventually was retired at third base on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt, but the next batter Luis Trevino drove in the first run with a single to right field and Derek Scott followed with a RBI groundout that plated Dalon Farkas.
ACU kept its 2-0 lead until the eighth when it scored two insurance runs off NSU reliever Austin Reich. The Wildcats loaded the bases on a single and two walks with one out and Claborn scored the first run on Bourland’s fly ball to shallow right field. Dalton Dunn followed with a RBI single up the middle to pad the Wildcats’ lead to 4-0.
Bourland finished the game 3-for-3 with an RBI and Trevino was 2-for-4 with two singles.
The Wildcats’ shutout victory was its first of 2019 and first over a Southland Conference opponent since April 23, 2017 when Keaton Brewer and Jonah Smith blanked the Lamar Cardinals on four hits in Abilene.
Ridge Heisler was saddled with the loss despite giving his side a quality start of 7.0 innings with five strikeouts. Three runs were charged to him along with two walks and six hits allowed. He finished with 104 pitches.
The Demons and Wildcats continue their series Saturday at 2 p.m.