CANYON – Tarleton came into the Lone Star Conference Championship Tournament with a single goal in mind – win.
Unlike three of the other competitors in the tournament, including two lower seeds, Tarleton came into the postseason already with a win-or-go-home mentality because they have been left out of the NCAA Regional Rankings for each of the last three weeks despite finishing second in the Lone Star Conference standings.
But the Texans took their season – and for the 15 seniors, their baseball careers – into their own hands and defeated No. 5 West Texas A&M at Wilder Park in Canyon to earn the school’s second Lone Star Conference Tournament Championship and receive an automatic invitation into the NCAA South Central Regional tournament. The complete tournament field will be announced tomorrow at 9 p.m. CT.
“This group of seniors is a special group,” said head coach Bryan Conger. “They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do and with a great attitude. They knew they were going to win and that’s three-quarters of the battle.”
West Texas A&M scored first with a pair of runs on a bases-loaded error in the opening frame, but Tarleton had a big-time answer for the Buffs as Tarleton put up a 10-run inning in the top of the second to take complete control of the game.
Three straight extra-base hits from Tarleton got the inning started as Jared McCarver went yard to lead things off and then Jake Hasbrouck followed up a Francisco Rodriguez double with the first of his three home runs on the day to put Tarleton on top 3-2. Hasbrouck’s three home runs tied a conference tournament record.
After Tarleton loaded the bases with one out, Ruben Rodriguez quickly cleared them with a three-RBI triple to right center. Luke Morton doubled him home and then McCarver went deep for the second time in the inning for a two-run shot. Hunter Hudson capped off the frame with an RBI single to put Tarleton up 10-2.
Evan Pontley answered the call from the bump by keeping WT off the board in the second and third before his offense went to work again in the top of the fourth with three solo homers in the inning – one each from Francisco, Hasbrouck, and Blake Adams.
Tarleton added one more in the fifth on an error and the final run of the game in the ninth on Hasbrouck’s third long ball of the afternoon while WT had only a five-run eighth inning left in the tank.
Evan Pontley, who pitched yesterday, answered the call as the game’s starter and threw four innings without allowing an earned run. He struck out two. Nathan Hickey, who started yesterday’s game, gave the team three big innings of scoreless relief to earn his 10th win of the season, which tied the school single-season record. Eddie Avila worked the last two innings.
McCarver, Francisco, and Hasbrouck each had three hits for the game to lead the offense while Ruben also had a multi-hit game with two. Adams, Elvin Alamo, Morton, Tyler Fowler, and Hudson had one hit each.
Tarleton had six players named to the all-tournament team, including the tournament MVP Blake Adams. Jake Hasbrouck (1B), Ruben Rodriguez (2B), Tyler Fowler (3B), Jared McCarver (OF), and Nathan Hickey (P) also earned all-tournament acclaim.
The Texans will await their playoff opponent, which will be announced on NCAA.com tomorrow evening, but Tarleton will advance to the NCAA South Central Regional Tournament for the fourth time in school history and the first time since 2014.