ABILENE - Sitting just three outs away from an important Lone Star Conference doubleheader sweep of Tarleton State, the ACU Wildcats couldn't close the door as the Texans rallied to win the nightcap, 3-2, at Crutcher Scott Field.
The Wildcats won the first game, 2-1, behind a strong pitching performance from Jordan Herrera and were poised to win the second game after Aaron Lambrix threw six shutout innings and handed the ball to Clint Cooper with a 2-0 lead going to the bottom of the seventh inning.
But Cooper - who picked up a win with a scoreless seventh inning as the Wildcats won in walk-off fashion in the first game - walked the first three batters of the seventh and left without recording an out and only throwing two strikes.
Brady Rodriguez came on in relief of Cooper and immediately got pinch-hitter Jonathan Schmitz to hit a ground ball to second base. But the Wildcats were only able to get the force at second as the ball was hit too slowly to turn a double play. Ty Crump scored on the play to cut ACU's lead to 2-1.
With runners at second and third, Evan Robinson dropped down a squeeze bunt that first baseman Rodge Macy fielded and flipped to catcher Emmett Niland, who was standing on the plate as if there were a force at home. Instead, Andrew Wolfe slid in safely to tie the game at 2-2.
After a single to shallow left field re-loaded the bases, Noah Ringenberger flew out to center field to drive in Schmitz with the go-ahead run. Blake Silguero then lined out to shortstop Luke Mejia to finally put an end to the inning.
Niland led off the bottom of the seventh with a bunt single and pinch-runner Bryce Gerhardt went to second on a Mejia sacrifice bunt. But Gerhardt was left stranded at second as Kyle Conwell struck out swinging and Tyler Eager grounded out to end the game, putting a capper on one of the most frustrating losses of the season for the Wildcats.
Lambrix allowed just four hits and only one walk in six innings of work and the Texans only got one baserunner past third base against him.
In the first game the two teams battled through four scoreless innings before the Wildcats finally got on top of TSU ace Pete Perez with a run in the bottom of the fifth.
With Gerhardt on at second after entering the game as a pinch-runner, Conwell reached on an error by Landon Thompson, pushing Gerhard to third base. Eager then dropped down a perfectly placed squeeze bunt that brought in Gerhardt with the first run of the game.
Herrera needed just two pitches to record the first two outs of the sixth, but after falling behind Silguero 2-0, he grooved a fastball that was turned around for a solo home run to tie the game, 1-1. The Wildcats got a runner to second with one out in the home half of the sixth, but couldn't push a run across.
After Cooper pitched a scoreless seventh for the Wildcats, the offense went back to work. Pinch-hitter Kevin Finklea reached when the first pitch of the inning from Perez hit him in the left shoulder. Conwell struck out trying to bunt him over, but Eager singled to left to move Finklea to second base. Second baseman Chuck Duarte - who has had a penchant for coming up with big hits late in games - came up with another one as his single to center drove in Finklea with the game-inning run.
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