STEPHENVILLE, Texas - Abilene Christian prevented No. 24 Tarleton State from clinching a share of the Lone Star Conference regular-season championship after posting a 7-2 victory Sunday over the Texans at the Cecil Ballow Baseball Complex.
The Wildcats (26-19, 14-10 LSC) were sparked by a sixth-inning, three-run home run from and an outstanding 8.0 innings of work from junior .
Watson's home run was his first hit of the year following a 0-for-23 start as a part-time outfielder. Today marked only his 14th appearance and eighth start, but he looked like an old pro at the plate as he turned on Landon Thompson's delivery and deposited it into the left-field netting.
Watson's last home run was at Delta State on March 11 of last season.
Taylor also was tremendous in improving to 5-4 on the season as he punched out seven Tarleton batters through eight innings. The southpaw also picked off two runners, raising his season total to four, and walked only one.
pitched the ninth and retired the side in order with one strikeout.
The Wildcats return to action Tuesday for a 3:30 p.m. game vs. Texas-Permian Basin and will then close out their 2013 regular season next weekend with a four-game set at Crutcher Scott Field vs. Angelo State.
ACU and ASU began Sunday in a three-way tie for second place with Texas A&M-Kingsville, 3.0 games behind the Texans, while West Texas A&M and Incarnate Word were tied for fifth at 12-11. The Wildcats this season own the tiebreaker over the Javelinas and Cardinals, but lost their series at West Texas and Tarleton (28-14-1, 17-7 LSC).
The Texans, meanwhile, will wrap up their season with a home series vs. last-place Cameron and can clinch its first conference championship with at least two wins over the Aggies.
Tarleton today took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Nico Moran scored on Ryan Small's RBI single to center field. Taylor, however, would escape any further damage with back-to-back strikeouts of Colten Boothe and Fola Lajide. The ACU starter also was helped during that opening frame by battery mate , who caught Small trying to steal second base with assists from infielders and .
Niland would later drive in the game-tying run in the fifth with a base hit back up the middle that plated Spivey, who led off the inning with a hit by pitch. Spivey was then sacrificed over to second base by and kept the inning alive with a two-out walk.
Tarleton put a runner aboard in its half of the fifth with two outs, but Niland again bailed out Taylor with a somersault dive to catch Moran's sacrifice bunt attempt.
Troyal Yosko started for Tarleton and allowed just one hit through three innings. He was followed to the mound by Garrett Kelley (4-4), who gave up the game-tying run in the fifth and later was lifted in favor of Landon Thompson after the Wildcats put two on with two outs in the sixth.
Thompson inherited Kelley's 2-0 count vs. Macy and came within a strike of putting away ACU's designated hitter, but Macy slapped a sharp grounder to second that took a bad hop and hit off Small's chest, allowing Duarte to score from second. That miscue was immediately followed by Watson's round-tripper.
Tarleton made it a 5-2 game in its half of the sixth on Boothe's RBI ground ball to third base, but ACU countered with a pair of eighth-inning insurance runs when Macy chopped a two-run single over the head of third baseman Luke Slentz.
Information provided by ACU athletics department.
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