Texan Baseball conquers top seed GCU to advance to WAC Tournament Semifinals


MESA, Ariz. – Tarleton State Baseball remained perfect in postseason, this time sending the top-seeded Lopes to the loser’s bracket to advance to the WAC Tournament Semifinals.

The 5-seed Tarleton State (30-28, 17-13 WAC) took down the 1-seed Grand Canyon (34-22, 23-7 WAC) 4-2 on Thursday in Mesa at Hohokam Stadium to improve to 3-0 in the WAC Tournament. The Texans now advance to the semifinals, where they will meet Abilene Christian on Friday at 2 p.m. CT.

Over the course of four innings, the Texans tallied one run at a time to slowly bury the home team. The Texans claimed their first run as Hunter Smith stole home to change the momentum of the game. Smith’s steal was the first in WAC Tournament play since 2008. With the bases loaded for GCU in the bottom of the ninth, first baseman Cris Enriquez fielded it cleanly, and with a toss to the pitcher, Jack Driskell covering at first, the Texans closed out the game and killed the Lopes’ hope of a late comeback.

The win over Grand Canyon marked the 30th win on the season for Tarleton State, the most in the Division I era and the most wins in a season since 2018 when Tarleton State went 35-17, making an appearance in the NCAA Regional Tournament. 

Senior Matt Haley got the start for the Purple and White with 4.2 innings pitched, giving up two runs on four hits, four walks and two strikeouts. Grant Garza (W, 10-1) secured double-digit wins with 1.1 inning on the bump, giving up no runs on one hit, one walk and no strikeouts. Driskell (S,5) earned his fifth save of the season after a 1.0 inning outing, giving up no runs on two hits, no walks and one strikeout. 

Grant Richardson got the start for the Lopes with 5.0 innings on the bump, giving up two runs on five hits, four walks and six strikeouts. Hunter Watkins (L, 2-1) went 4.0 innings on the mound, giving up two runs on five hits, one walk and two strikeouts. 

Tarleton State totaled four runs on 10 hits with three stolen bases from Cole Miears (2) and Smith (1).

Grand Canyon compiled two runs on eight hits.

The home team was first on the board with a lone run coming across in the second inning. The leadoff walked and a single followed to see a pair of Lopes on the base path. A sacrifice bunt advanced the runners and a sacrifice fly  made room for the first run to come across.

In the top of the fourth, the Texans got on the board with a risky steal at home plate from Smith, shifting the game’s momentum in favor of Tarleton State. Smith singled to start off the inning and Jordan Andrade walked to add another runner on for the Texans. A groundout from Kooper Shook advanced the pair. With two outs on the board, Smith got the go-ahead to steal home and successfully put some skin in the game for the visitors to tie things up at 1-1.

Tarleton State kept on coming with another run across in the top of the fifth. Mason Hammonds singled to start off the inning and a balk placed Hammonds into scoring position. A groundout from Trace Morrison advanced Hammonds to third base and an RBI single from Miears scored Hammonds to put the Texans ahead 2-1. 

Grand Canyon battled back in the bottom of the fifth with a run to tie things up at two apiece. The leadoff singled and the first out followed in the form of a fly out. The three-hole reached on a fielder’s choice, retiring the lead runner. A walk followed to see two Lopes on base and a single to right brought in the final run for GCU. The home team left three runners stranded at the end of the fifth.

In the top of the sixth, Smith singled to get the Tarleton State offense back in motion and Andrade followed up with another single. With a lone out recorded, Ike Shirey singled to score Smith and see the Texans retake the lead at 3-2. 

The seventh inning welcomed the final run of the game as the fourth run came across for the visitors. With one out on the board, Miears singled and stole second. As the second out followed, Smith singled to score Miears and bring the total to 4-2 for the Texans.

In the bottom of the ninth, the fight from the Purple and White was unmatched. As Driskell came in to relieve Reese Bassinger, the leadoff singled to get things moving for the home team. Another single followed but a pair of outs came next. An error from the visitors welcomed the third runner aboard. A 2-2 count left the stadium ridden with adrenaline and the final out came as Enriquez snagged the final ball in play and a toss to Driskell at first base to secure another huge win over GCU in the 2024 season. 

Tarleton State will move on to face Abilene Christian in the semifinals Friday at 2 p.m. CT. A win for the Texans over the Wildcats would put the Purple and White in line for a Saturday meeting in the Championship with the winner of Game 11 at 5 p.m. CT. A loss for Tarleton State would see the Texans due for a doubleheader against the winner of Game 10 at 8 p.m. CT on Friday. 

In the regular season meetings with ACU, the Texans took the Friday evening game but dropped the last pair on the weekend. The Wildcats are 1-0 in postseason play while Tarleton State has earned a perfect record at 3-0.

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