Wildcats Take Two from Xavier, Clinch Third Seed in RRAC Tournament

Adrian Aguilar stepping on home plate during game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader against Xavier
Adrian Aguilar stepping on home plate during game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader against Xavier(Alena Noakes)
Published: May. 1, 2022 at 12:04 AM CDT
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PINEVILLE, La. (LCU) - After suffering a tough defeat to Xavier University with the winning run on base in Friday’s series-opener, the Louisiana Christian University baseball team rallied back against the Gold Rush, not trailing in either game of the doubleheader as the Wildcats won the series with 5-3 and 7-0 wins Saturday afternoon at Billy Allgood Field at Legacy Stadium.

Game 1 – Xavier University of Louisiana 3, Louisiana Christian 5

Miscues in the first inning helped the Wildcats strike first after the LCU defense stranded a Gold Rush runner in the top half of the frame. Leading off the bottom of the inning, Adrian Aguilar jumped all over the first pitch he saw, shooting it right back up the middle for a base hit. With one out now, Aguilar took off for second, and the throw ended up in center field, allowing him to continue to third. After Keelyn Johnson walked and stole second behind Aguilar, Nick Brunet came up with two outs. He rolled a ground ball to shortstop, which was booted, allowing everyone to reach safely, including Aguilar scoring on the play. That was followed by Jacob Fowler doing his best softball slapper impression as he smashed a pitch straight down into the turf and got a high enough bounce that allowed him to win the race to first as Johnson scored to make it 2-0 Wildcats after one inning of play.

The third inning began another big theme for the Wildcats on the day, productive outs that scored runs. Keelyn Johnson led off the frame by drawing a base on balls, and that was followed by Ju’Juan Franklin getting hit by a pitch. Nick Brunet did the job he was asked, as he laid down the sacrifice bunt which got both runners into scoring position. Jacob Fowler came through again, this time with a fly ball to left-center that was deep enough to let Johnson tag up and score. But perhaps the most aggressive moment came next as Nicklaus Stein hit a slow-roller between third and shortstop. Reading the slow nature of the hit and that it was taking the defense away from him, Ju’Juan Franklin didn’t stop at third and he raced home, sliding in away from the relay throw from first to score from second base on a ground ball that didn’t make it to the brown turf of the base line and make it 4-0 Wildcats after three innings of play.

But Xavier had its one, big rally, starting the top of the fourth with a double, a RBI triple, and a 2-run home run to cut the LCU lead down to 4-3. However, the home run reset things for the Wildcats and LCU was able to end the rally, getting three of the next four batters out to end the inning and maintain the advantage. LCU got one of those runs back in the bottom of the frame as Adrian Aguilar again jumped on the first pitch, going down the third base line for a lead-off double. He scored on Keelyn Johnson’s one-out single to center to give LCU a 5-3 lead.

After getting the Gold Rush up and down in order in the fifth and sixth, a lead-off single brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh with no outs. Keelyn Johnson stole a base hit from the Gold Rush as he ranged deep up the middle to throw out a runner for the first out of the inning. The next two batters both grounded out to second base to end the inning and secure the win.

Adrian Aguilar was the only Wildcat with multiple hits in the contest, going two-for-three with a double, a walk, a stolen base, and two runs scored. A day after drawing four walks in a single contest, Keelyn Johnson added two more bases on balls to his total as he went one-for-one with two walks, two stolen bases, a RBI, and two runs scored. Jacob Fowler went one-for-two with two RBI.

Cortlynn Ramirez (9-3) picked up the win as he went 4.2 innings and gave up five hits and three runs, all earned, walked two and struck out two. Beau Hebert came in and needed just 25 pitches to get through 2.1 innings to close out the contest, facing just one more than the minimum as he allowed just one hit and no runs with no walks or strikeouts to pick up his second save of the season.

Game 1 – Xavier University of Louisiana 0, Louisiana Christian 7

After getting through the first inning scoreless, the Wildcats went back to getting productive outs to get the lead in the second inning. Nick Brunet drew a walk to start the frame, Jacob Fowler punched a base hit through the right side of the infield, and then Nicolas Ramos was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Ty Morgan was the first to come through, hitting a fly ball to deep right-center field, which allowed all three base runners to tag up, including Brunet touching home uncontested for the game’s first run. That was followed by Adrian Aguilar going to left-center with his own sacrifice fly, allowing both runners to tag up again and Fowler coming home to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.

The same section of the batting order helped set up a big inning for the Wildcats as LCU blew the game open in the fourth inning. Nick Brunet led off the inning by watching ball four go by for a free pass to first base. Jacob Fowler got the more painful free pass as he was hit by a pitch, pushing Brunet to second. Nicolas Ramos was asked to move them over, but he did even better, placing the bunt perfectly not just for a base hit, but the Gold Rush pitcher then threw the ball away, allowing everyone to move up again, including Brunet coming home to score on the error. Jacob Fowler, on third following the error, came home on a wild pitch, which also moved Ramos to third base. Now with one out, Adrian Aguilar stunned XULA as he laid down a perfect bunt squeeze bunt down the first base line and the defense was late to rotate, allowing Aguilar to reach safely as Ramos scored uncontested. A day after hitting his seventh home run of the season, Alex Ashby came through by dropping a base hit inside the left field foul line for a double and Aguilar raced all the way around from first base to score and give the Wildcats a 6-0 lead when the fourth inning finally ended.

LCU got out of a couple of jams throughout the middle innings to keep the Gold Rush scoreless, and then Ju’Juan Franklin, after getting robbed of two home runs by the wind during Friday’s game, would not be denied in the seventh inning as he hit a sure thing solo homer with one out in the bottom of the seventh to give the Wildcats some insurance. That insurance would not be necessary as the LCU pitching staff and defense only allowed two more Xavier base runners the rest of the way to secure the win.

Nine different Wildcats got one base hit each in the contest. Ju’Juan Franklin’s one base hit resulted in his conference-leading 14th home run of the season, which accounted for his lone RBI and run scored in the game. Adrian Aguilar went one-for-four with two RBI and a run scored. Alex Ashby went one-for-four with a double, a RBI, and was hit by a pitch. Jacob Fowler went one-for-three, was hit by a pitch, and scored twice. Nicolas Ramos was one-for-two, was hit by a pitch, and scored a run. Ty Morgan was one-for-two with a RBI. Nick Brunet didn’t get a hit, bu drew two walks and scored twice.

Six different Wildcat pitchers combined for the shutout of the Gold Rush, led by Colten Newsom (3-2) who started and threw the first two innings, allowing three hits with no walks and two strikeouts. Dylan Coburn also worked two innings and gave up one hit with no walks and two strikeouts. Branon Pope threw 1.2 innings and gave up two hits and one walk with no strikeouts. Chase Gardner threw 1.1 innings and allowed one hit, no walks, and two strikeouts. Trip Flotte threw one inning, giving up just one walk with no hits or strikeouts. Beau Hebert came on for his second appearance of the day in the ninth inning and got the final three outs, allowing one hit with no walks and one strikeout.

The Wildcats (30-15, 23-11 RRAC) will enter next week’s Red River Athletic Conference Baseball Championship Tournament as the three-seed and will draw the six-seeded Texas A&M-Texarkana Eagles in the opening round on Friday, May 6th. First pitch of the opening round game Friday between the Wildcats and Eagles (32-22, 20-13 RRAC) will be announced later. The 2022 RRAC Baseball Tournament will be held at the Sterlington Sports Complex in Sterlington, La.

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