By Jude McClaren, Deshaun Hartley and Joshua Orozco
The Bobcat Baseball team went into the weekend looking to clinch the Sun Belt’s regular season championship, but they wouldn’t get it done in game one. Combined with missed opportunities at the plate and pitching challenges, the ‘Cats fell 5-3 against UT-Arlington (UTA) Friday night. UTA’s Andrew Gross received the pitching win on the night, (2-2) as Texas State’s Dontae Woodard received the loss (2-1).
Despite losing by two, the Bobcats out-hit UTA 11-8. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, they weren’t able to capitalize on all those hits (and even walks) as they left 13 runners on base throughout the game. Meanwhile, UTA only left eight runners on base, with the rest of their baserunners being the five runs that crossed the plate for the Mavericks. The Bobcats also gave up two homers, one being a critical two-run bomb from UTA’s Zac Cook in the top of the ninth inning, which was the dagger for the Bobcats in game one.
The Bobcat offense was mainly headed by senior outfielder Skyler Valentine, who went 3-4 at the plate, scoring two runs of the three Bobcat runs, two RBI’s, and a homer. The only other run of the game was scored by junior infielder Jaxon Williams. Junior pitcher Nicholas Fraze pitched a solid seven innings, allowing three runs and six hits, on top of keeping UTA scoreless for the majority of the ball game. This loss marked the eighteenth of the season for the Bobcats moving their overall record to 34-18, and their tenth loss in conference play, moving their record to 18-10 in the Sun Belt.
After dropping game one of the most important series of the season, the Texas State baseball team came into today’s game still looking for that magic number… one. All they need to do is win one game in order to have at least a share of the Sun Belt conference regular season title. Everything that the maroon and gold has put into this season all came down to this.
After falling behind by five runs early in the second inning, the Bobcats had some soul searching to do and whatever they did, it worked. The comeback started at the bottom of the fourth inning with the Bobcats scoring five runs in order to take a six-to-five lead, but the Mavericks wanted to spoil the big day for the home team. They retaliated with a four run seventh inning started by Cook single bringing two of his teammates home safely.
With a comeback in sight and only one inning for Texas State to grab hold of a rightfully deserved title, they did what they have done all season and came up huge in the bottom of the eighth. Three of the most important runs on the season crossed the plate for the Bobcats, giving them their first regular season conference title in eight years, 10-9 over the Mavericks.
The hitting for the this team has been spectacular and it continued during game two of this series. Six Bobcats had multi-hit games and six crossed the plate. Some of the biggest names came to play in the brightest of moments. One of the greats at Texas State, Jaylen Hubbard, contributed three RBI’s on two hits and a run scored. Also, strong armed shortstop Dalton Shuffield went three for five with two RBI’s and two runs scored. Other players who’s performances can’t go without mention including: Travon Benton (2-4), Valentine (2-3, drawing two walks) and the RBI king, Will Hollis (3-5).
The mound work fell on the shoulders of the bullpen in game two. The right-handed vet, Brayden Theriot, received his first and most important win of the season. He pitched 1.2 innings striking-out one batter and only giving up one hit.
Most of the early work was put in by the usual mid-game starter, Hunter McMahon. McMahon pitched six complete innings of work facing a game high 25 batters and pitched over half the teams pitch count. Lastly, earning the save for the maroon and gold was Zachary Leigh who closed out his pitching stint striking out half of the batters he faced.
With all the hard-word and dedication their would be a new champion in the Sun Belt conference. Their names will be cemented in Bobcat history bringing home at least a share of the title with this win. Also, this gave Texas State a record of 35-19 with one more game at home for the seniors. The moment is bitter-sweet and after a long season the Bobcats rain as the 2019 Sun Belt conference champions.
Pomp and circumstance continued in the second game of the Friday double-header as Texas State defeated UT Arlington 13-11.
The Bobcats clinched the right to be named the outright Sun Belt champions, their first ever SBC crown in school history. Friday’s victory also marked the first regular season conference title of any kind in eight years for Texas State since their run in the Southland.
UTA’s bats where in sync, finishing the ballgame with 18 hits. However, the Bobcats scored six runs in the eighth to seal the fate of the Mavericks.
Benton lead the team with five RBI and right fielder John Wuthrich blasted his second career grand slam to kick off a crucial comeback for Texas State.
An impassioned Hubbard spoke following his final home game of his career.
“Tough, fun, emotional, pushing through a lot hard days,” Hubbard said regarding his journey since being redshirted at Texas State. “It just shows that grind; it’ll usually pay off in some way.”
Overcome with emotion, Hubbard harped on the senior bond throughout the season.
“We’re brothers,” Hubbard said. “The whole team is a brotherhood and us seniors stay together like no other.”
Coach Ty Harrington achieves the fourth regular season title in his illustrious 20-season Bobcat head coaching career. Harrington applauded his team’s clutch performances from start to finish.
“Our guys don’t give in and they still believe they’re one swing away,” Harrington said. “I’m really impressed overall this whole season [with] how hard they compete.”
Brent Hebert, pitcher, moves to 5-1 to wrap up the regular season. Leigh recorded his sixth save of the Bobcats championship regular season, allowing one run off three hits in the final inning.
Tournament opponent and first pitch has yet to be announced. However, Texas State begins play on May 22 at Springs Brooks Stadium in Conway, South Carolina. Bobcat tournament coverage can be found on KTSW 89.9.
Follow KTSW Sports for further updates regarding scheduling for the 2019 Sun Belt Conference baseball championship.
Featured image courtesy of Texas State Athletics.
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