Friday, May 14, 2010

Wait was worth it for Wildcats

WARRENSBURG, Mo. -- The 3 1/2 hour wait yesterday for the Wildcats turned out to be well worth it as they played one of their best games of the season in a 10-2 win over St. Mary's.

As usual, the Wildcats fell behind as Jonathan Cisneros solo home run in the third inning.  It was the eighth straight post-season game in which the Wildcats' opponents have led.  ACU, however, is 6-2 in those games with five straight wins in that circumstance.

A six-run third inning gave the Wildcats a 6-1 lead, and the outstanding starting pitcher effort of Cameron Aspaas was enough for the Wildcats.  Aspaas struck out seven Rattlers and didn't allow a walk as he needed just 106 pitches to get through 6 2/3 innings.  Ryan McCabe, Josh Crockett and Brad Rutherford closed out, using just 20 pitches them to get through the final 2 1/3 innings.

Tonight the Wildcats will take on Incarnate Word at 7 p.m. in a winner's bracket game.  The No. 4 seed Cardinals pulled a minor upset with a 6-1 win late Thursday night over No. 3 seed Emporia State.  UIW pitcher Kirk Jewasko improved to 12-2 on the season as he struck out 13 Hornets in seven innings, and closer Alfredo Caballero finished up the final two innings, giving up just one hit while striking out five more ESU hitters.

The Wildcats and Cardinals didn't play this year, but ACU holds a 27-13 all-time lead in the series.  The last time they played was the opening game of the 2009 season with the Wildcats taking a 5-2 win.  The Wildcats and Cardinals have met once before in the post-season and that was an 8-5 ACU win in the first round of the 2006 regional tournament.

The two teams will open the season against each other in 2011 as Incarnate Word joins the Lone Star Conference, effective July 1.

For more on ACU's trip to wet and soggy Warrensburg, Mo., read Ron Hadfield's take on the ACU Today blog.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Oliver Earns National Nomination; Wildcats Ready for Regional

On the verge of a record setting season already the ACU baseball team has shown they are not satisfied with another LSC Title. While earning the right to play in this weekend’s South Central Regional in Warrensburg, Missouri is an honor it is still not the goal for these Wildcats.

Just one win shy of their 47th win this season which would tie them for the most in a single season by a Wildcat team is also just another record. A single win or even two wins would be nice, however ACU is looking for not just four more wins which would equal a Regional Championship. Lucky number eight is a more accurate number for the Wildcats which would give them the Regional Title and a National Title.

A return to the College World Series would mark the first trip for ACU since 2003 and only the second in school history. While mentioning earlier pitching and defense being key to post-season victories ACU fares well nationally ranking No. 2 in fielding percentage only second to UC-San Diego. A lethal combination up the middle with Willie Uechi and Chris Hall put the Wildcats in the top 10 in double plays turned. And not giving out free bases has been key where the Wildcats rank No.13 in walks allowed per nine innings.

Considering baseball teams that are strong up the middle the ACU can make a claim to be considered. With Uechi and Hall at second base and shortstop, Aaron Oliver has been arguably better in his perch in centerfield.

Oliver was nominated by Ping! Baseball this week for the Tino Martinez Award. (Given to the top Division II baseball player read more here) While he has kept up with the nation’s offensive leaders: 27th in runs scored, 14th in hits, 27th in doubles, and 17th in total bases, Oliver does more to help spark ACU. His speed in the outfield has helped the corner outfield positions to cover the line more consequently taking away not just more base hits, but extra base hits as well.

Another example of Oliver breaking a game open needs to look no further than last Tuesday in the LSC Championship game with Angelo State. A breaking ball to Cameron Bankston in the seventh inning was blocked almost perfectly by ASU catcher Chris Adamson, with the exception of losing sight of the ball. Without hesitation Oliver broke home and slid in safely under Adamson’s nose breaking a 4-4 tie.

Be sure to follow ACU as they open play Thursday at 12 p.m. against St. Mary’s in the South Central Regional Tournament. All the action can be heard on AM 1280 or follow live stats here

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bouniol Heads to NCAAs

After finishing second at last week's regional tournament Cyril Bouniol will represent ACU at the NCAA DII National Championships held at Sagamore Golf Club in Noblesville, Indiana.

Bouniol, the 16th ranked Division II player in the nation, trugged through wet and windy conditions in two consecutive tournaments. First at the Lone Star Conference Championships in Thackerville, Oklahoma and last week at The Territory in Duncan, Oklahoma.

Last week howling winds and tough hole locations brought high scores all three rounds at the Super Regional in Duncan, Okla. After a solid start at Even on the first day Bouniol struggled with the rest of the golfers with a high +5 on day two. He was solid again on the back side on day three recovering from a double bogey on 11 on day two to birdie on the final day. A birdie on the 13th par three put him at -2 for back nine and -1 for the day as he pared out to reach +4 for the Championship and earn a spot at this weeks National Championships.

Two weeks ago Bouniol fought through a flooded course on Sunday to shoot -3 under for day one and 5 strokes behind the leader. Bouniol made quick work of windy but much dryer conditions on day two with a bogey free round that included 8 birdies and tied a course record 64 to sit in a tie after two rounds. A solid start on day three put Bouniol one stroke up after the front nine with two birdies putting him at -10 for the tournament. However a double bogey on #11 ended a streak of 29 straight holes without a bogey. Bouniol had a long up hill eagle put to win the LSC Title outright, but came up just to the right as he tapped in for birdie and claimed his first collegiate victory.

Bouniol, a junior has one more season to help knock down ACU golf records with an amazing roster of freshmen returning next season. He also has aspirations of playing on the Nationwide Tour after graduation; however first Cyril and head coach Mike Campbell will look to bring an individual golf championship back to Abilene. Check back for more information as live scoring will be available again on the Bouniol's journey for an NCAA Championship.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Show Me...Again

For the second straight year, ACU's road to the NCAA D2 World Series will go through Warrensburg, Mo.

Top-seed Central Missouri will host the 6-team South Central Region playoffs with ACU entering as the 2-seed coming off its 2nd straight Lone Star Conference tournament title last week. The Wildcats are trying to return to the World Series for the first time since 2003.

If pitching and defense win in postseason baseball, ACU is in good shape. The 'Cats had the fewest errors in the LSC (despite playing more games than most teams) and had the lowest ERA by a run and a half. Throw in the senior leadership of Willie Uechi, Chris Hall and Brad "Rubber Arm" Rutherford, who is essentially on call from the 5th inning on, and you have the makings of a Series contender.

Play will begin Thursday. You can hear the games locally in Abilene on Classic Country 1280 AM.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Purple Rain

ACU scored 6 in the top of the 9th inning to blow the lock off a tied game and beat Cameron, 13-7, to remain unbeaten through 3 days of the Lone Star Conference baseball tournament.

The Wildcats advance to the championship round and await the survivor of the next two games: Angelo State vs. Tarleton State tonight and the winner of that game vs. Cameron tomorrow at 1 p.m. Whichever team does get through will have to beat ACU twice to deny the 'Cats their second consecutive LSC tournament title.

After Cameron scored 3 runs in the bottom of the 7th inning to take a 7-6 lead, Will Calhoun hit a leadoff opposite field homer to tie it. ACU closer Brad Rutherford came on in the bottom of the 8th and retired the Aggies in order. Then Ian Tomkins barely cleared the left field fence with a 1-out solo homer to give ACU a lead it wouldn't surrender. The 'Cats scratched out 5 more runs - all with 2 outs - to put the game away. As the showers that delayed the start of the game returned for the final few pitches, Rutherford gave up a couple of 2-out hits before striking out DH Keith Powell to rain on the Aggies' parade.

Postseasoning: Aggies spice up pregame with a little pepper

First pitch officially rescheduled to 3 pm CDT. It's now absolutely gorgeous with just a few wispy, white clouds beyond left field. The wind is from the north at maybe 10-15 mph, meaning anything in the air toward right field has a chance to go. ("Paging, Mr. Bochsler. Mr. Bret Bochsler.")

Ricky Cramer goes for Cameron, Zach Sneed for ACU.

Some numbers from the 4-game series the 'Cats swept from the Aggies here on April 9-10:
  • Scores: Game 1, 4-2; Game 2, 5-1; Game 3, 4-3; Game 4, 3-2
  • In 3 of the 4 games, CU was either tied or leading late
  • ACU rallied with 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th in the finale on a 2-out, 2-run triple by Ryan Luckie to flip a 1-run deficit into a lead that Brad Rutherford closed out
  • CU threw only its 4 starting pitchers, including Cramer who allowed 4 runs on 11 hits in the series opener, a 4-2 ACU win; he gave up 2 runs in the bottom of the 6th of a scheduled 7-inning game
  • Neither team hit very much, which is another way of saying both teams pitched well: CU hit .247 for the series with 8 extra-base hits (1 HR), ACU .304 with 8 extra-base hits (0 HR)
  • Rutherford pitched in all 4 games for ACU, allowing 3 hits, 0 runs, 0 BB with 4 Ks in 4 IP
Huge game today. Winner gets to rest until tomorrow and can still afford a loss; loser has to play a must-win game tonight and twice tomorrow to win it all.

Natural light

Now this is more like it. The sun is coming out. ACU coach Britt Bonneau just yelled across the field to his players, "Let's pull it!" and they did. The infield tarp is rolled up, and hopefully the mound and plate coverings won't be far behind.

We should have baseball soon.

ACU, by the by, will be the visiting team for this tournament game - despite being both the top seed and playing in the friendly confines of Crutcher Scott Field - by dint of a coin flip. The conference wants each team playing at least one game as home and one as visitor. Both ACU and Cameron have been home and away in their first two games, so they flipped. ACU will be in their road purple jerseys with gray pants and black hats.

(I'm wearing a lovely checked-purple open collar shirt with flat-front khakis and black loafers. My road uni.)

I'll be doing play-by-play of the LSC's video broadcast here. (Scroll down to "Monday, May 3, G7" and "Watch live.") Lance Fleming will have the radio call locally in Abilene on Classic Country 1280 AM.

Lights are on, no one home

ACU's third game of the Lone Star Conference baseball tournament has yet to begin. The scheduled first pitch between the top-seeded Wildcats and Cameron University was 11 a.m. (CDT) but is on hold indefinitely because of steady showers. (At 60 degrees, it's not exactly toasty either.)

Not sure when we'll get going, so stay close. Both ACU and Cameron are 2-0 through the first 2 days of the tournament. Winner is into the championship round tomorrow. Loser laces 'em up again tonight in a must-win game against the winner of today's second game between the States of Angelo and Tarleton.