By Dave Wagner
After watching his team get swept in a three-game series at home by Abilene Christian, Eastern New Mexico University baseball coach Phil Clabaugh said he’s disappointed but not discouraged.
The Greyhounds, who lost to the Wildcats 8-3 and 10-3 on Friday, had Saturday’s series finale in hand much of the way and had opportunities to win down to the end. But ACU reliever Coy Polk escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of the ninth and the Wildcats emerged with a windswept 11-10 victory at Greyhound Field.
ENMU built a 10-4 lead on Boyd Erickson’s two-run homer to right-center off Andrew Dillman (1-1) in the fifth. The Hounds (8-16, 3-8 South) did not score again, leaving the bases loaded in two of the final three innings.
“We had our chances,” Clabaugh said. “It’s hard on these kids. They try like the dickens, but to not come out with a win. …
“We executed really well until late.”
The Hounds stranded 15 runners, including 11 in scoring position, and left the bases loaded three times.
ENMU sophomore starter Kelly Crain nursed a 10-6 lead into the seventh. With his pitch count over 100, Clabaugh was hoping to squeeze one more inning out of him.
ACU (18-16, 8-4) foiled the plan, though, putting together a five-run inning to take the lead.
The Wildcats pulled to 10-9 on three consecutive RBI singles, then tied it when third baseman Matt Hinojosa threw wildly past first on Brian Johnson’s two-out grounder. Johnson scored on Ryan Barker’s single to center.
Second-year Wildcats coach Britt Bonneau was grateful for his team’s good fortune.
“We’re going to ride the wave as long as we can,” he said. “The way the game was going, I thought it was going to take 15 or more runs to win it. Our hitters did a good job hitting the ball off Crain; he had us in check there for a while.”
Polk, who worked in all three games, gave up an infield hit to Matt Elliott and walked Erickson to start the ENMU ninth, and Mark Wallace sacrificed. The Wildcats then walked Joey Aguilar intentionally, but Elliott failed to tag up and had to hold on Tyler Hayes’ flyout to medium-deep right.
Pinch-hitter Justin Gee then hit a deeper fly near the line in right, but ACU’s Chris Judkins ran it down.
On Friday, ACU scored in 11 of 16 innings and rode solid starting pitcher from Aaron Lawler in the first game and Ben Brockman in the nightcap.
Lawler survived six walks, allowing three hits in 5 2/3 innings before Polk got the final four outs to earn a save. Brockman, who went 6 1/3 innings, and Polk gave up 13 hits in the second game but didn’t issue any walks.
ACU, meantime, combined 15 hits and seven walks and took control of the game early.
Elliott and freshman center fielder Joey Aguilar each had three hits in the second game for the Hounds. Starter Jesse Garcia-Perez (1-3) went five innings and gave up six runs, all earned, on nine hits.