The ACU offense finally woke up from its three-week slumber Friday afternoon against Texas A&M-Kingsville, but its potent pitching staff couldn't hold up its end of the deal as the Wildcats dropped a 9-8 decision to Texas A&M-Kingsville in the first round of the Lone Star Conference Post-Season Baseball Tournament at Wilder Park.
The loss means ACU's season comes down to an elimination game Saturday at noon against Incarnate Word. The Javelinas, 36-15 and the region's top-ranked team, will take on either Angelo State or West Texas A&M at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Wildcats (28-23 on the season) are 9-10 all-time in 19 first-round tournament games dating back to the first tournament in 1993, including an 0-2 record against the Javelinas (losses in 2008 and 2013). ACU, however, is 8-1 in second-round elimination games.
ACU jumped on top with a single run in the first, three more in the second and another run in the third to make it 5-0, chasing LSC Pitcher of the Year Dallas Ponder after just 2 2/3 innings of work.
Emmett Niland singled in a run in the third and then scored on a triple to right-centerfield by Seth Spivey to make it 3-0. Kyle Conwell -- who doubled in the first to drive in a run and added a solo home run in the fourth -- walked to drive in a run to make it 4-0. Niland then doubled to right to drive Ty Taylor to make it 5-0 in the top of the third.
But the Javelinas came back to score four runs in the bottom of the third inning to close the gap to 5-4 as ACU starting pitcher Aaron Lambrix -- who hurled a complete-game one-hitter at the Javelinas back in March in an ACU win at Nolan Ryan Field in Kingsville -- ran into trouble in the inning.
Joe Tallerine had the big hit in the inning with a two-run single to left field to drive in the Javelinas' first two runs of the contest.
Each team scored once in the fourth and the Wildcats carried a 6-5 lead to the bottom of the sixth when the wheels fell off.
With two outs, Lambrix gave up back-to-back singles to Travis Laird and Tallerine before Ben Villafuerte singled to right to drive in the game-tying run. Taylor Taska then doubled to right-center to drive in two runs and make it an 8-6 game and that was all for Lambrix (4-5), who was tagged with the loss after giving up 11 hits and nine runs in 5 2/3 innings of work.
Chris Ballou then singled up the middle to drive in Taska to give the Javelinas a 9-6 lead.
ACU, though, wouldn't die as the Wildcats' Kyle Giusti singled to right field to lead off the ninth against Kingsville closer Jeremy Flores. After a groundout by Kyle Conwell moved Giusti to second, Tyler Eager singled down the right field line to drive in Giusti and make it a 9-7 game.
After another groundout by Chuck Duarte moved Eager to second base, Rodge Macy singled sharply up the middle to drive in Eager and make it a 9-8 game. But Taylor struck out swinging to end the game and give Flores his league-leading 10th save of the season.
Information for this story provided by ACU Athletics.