WAC Champions: Tarleton State Baseball wins WAC Tournament, becomes 1st D1 reclassifying baseball program to win conference tournament


MESA, Ariz. — Tarleton State Baseball has done the improbable, the impossible, the unfeasible – win a conference tournament during NCAA Division I reclassification.

The Texans won the WAC Tournament in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday night to become the first baseball program to win a conference tournament during NCAA Division I reclassification.

The 5-seed Tarleton State knocked off the 4-seed California Baptist in dominant fashion 9-1 in a winner-take-all nightcap at Hohokam Stadium. This marks the third conference tournament championship by the Texans in their NCAA era (2018, 2014), and they’re the first team to win the WAC Tournament in a team’s inaugural appearance since UTSA did so in 2013.

Tarleton State has posted their most postseason wins since 1992, going 5-1 throughout the WAC Tournament, all of this with a first-year head coach, Fuller Smith.

Tarleton State University and Tarleton Athletics hope this isn’t the end of Texan Baseball’s season, as they are submitting a request to the NCAA for reevaluation of the postseason ban for reclassifying institutions.

The Texans are 32-29 after their WAC Tournament championship, their most wins in a season since 2018 (35). They entered Saturday undefeated in the double-elimination tournament, getting two cracks at CBU if need-be. The Lancers won the first game 8-4 to push the championship into a winner-take-all nightcap. The Texans cruised through it, going up 5-0 through three, plus sitting the first 15 Lancers down as they entered the sixth dishing a perfect game.

Tarleton State was in control the entirety, just missing out on a shutout in the ninth. The Texans outhit the Lancers 17-4, with five Texans earning a multi-hit outing, and four pitchers allowing just six baserunners all night, striking out seven.

“I’m so proud and happy for these guys, because all these seniors who stuck it out and wanted to be part of a championship, they got to do this,” Smith said immediately on the broadcast after the win. “For me, I get more joy out of (the players celebrating) than anything else. Wins are great, but watching them have fun together, that’s awesome.”

Smith has won back-to-back WAC Tournaments. He was an assistant coach at Sam Houston last season when the Bearkats won it all. He was tabbed to be Tarleton State’s head coach in June, and in his first season, he led the Texans to the promised land.

Texan Baseball becomes the first Tarleton State program to win a conference tournament at the NCAA Division I level.

They had to knock off the Lancers twice this week to do so, facing CBU three times in their six games at the WAC Tournament. The Texans opened with a 12-6 win over 8-seed Sacramento State during the single-elimination opening round on Tuesday, then beat the Lancers in comeback fashion 5-3 on Wednesday. Tarleton State followed with wins over the top two ranked teams, 1-seed Grand Canyon 4-2 on Thursday, then an 11-1 run-rule victory over 2-seed Abilene Christian Friday.

In the first game on Saturday, CBU jumped out to a big lead, going up 7-0 after three. The Texans kept fighting and strung some offense together late, a foreshadow for what was to come in the second game on the weekend. The Lancers won Saturday’s opener 8-4.

In the championship decider, Cole Miears began a two-out rally with a single, which was followed by a Cris Enriquez single. Hunter Smith then doubled to right field on the first pitch he saw to put Tarleton State ahead 1-0 after one.

The Texans then scored four runs in the third, a rally that began with a Trace Morrison opening walk. Miears singled him home, then Smith gathered another RBI with a single to score Miears to make it 3-0. Tyson Drake promptly followed with a two-run blast to open the floodgates, making it 5-0 Purple and White.

Tarleton State then added another in the fourth, again on a Smith RBI with two outs, scoring Morrison.

After five, the Texans were up 6-0 in the middle of a perfect game. Parrish Beagle started and went six-up six-down. Reese Bassinger (W, 5-2) followed with nine straight outs before allowing the leadoff in the sixth to double down the left field line. He induced three straight groundouts after that to finish his day with the win, going four innings, allowing the single hit, striking out four.

Offensively, Tarleton added one in the eighth on an Enriquez RBI single, and two in the ninth courtesy a pair of RBI doubles by Mason Crews and Mason Hammonds. Grant Garza pitched the seventh and eighth innings, allowing no runs, one hit, one walk and striking out one. Jack Driskell, who closed out Sam Houston’s WAC Tournament victory under Smith last year, closed it out for Tarleton State this year, allowing one earned run on two hits and a walk, striking out two.

Smith had the best game at the plate for Tarleton, going 3-for-4 with three RBI, a walk and a run scored. Enriquez also had a three-hit game, going 3-for-4 with one RBI and a walk. Hammonds went 3-for-6 with an RBI and a run, Ike Shirey went 2-for-4 with a stolen base, and Miears went 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs. Morrison reached based four times (1-for-3, three walks, two runs), and Drake had two RBI on his home run. Crews had an RBI double and a run scored, plus Kooper Shook had a hit and a run.

CBU had a hit by four different batters, Nos. 5-8 in the order. The Lancers used six pitchers, with starter Brandon Downer (6-6) taking the loss, as he allowed three earned runs on five hits and a walk in two innings, striking out one.

The WAC announced their 12-man All-Tournament Team shortly after the championship, with five Texans earning spots. Miears was tabbed the WAC Tournament Most Outstanding Players, and joining him on the All-Tournament Team are Bassinger, Enriquez, Hammonds and Smith.

Tarleton State will now await the NCAA’s decision to see if their season ends in a conference championship, or if they will play in the NCAA Regionals.

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