The Southland Conference, as part of its year-long 50th Anniversary commemoration, this week announced its All-Decade Baseball teams from the 1960s and 1970s. These teams include stars from its member institutions from the league's inaugural 1964 season through 1979.
Wildcat third baseman Alvin O'Dell – the conference's hitter of the year in 1970 – was ACU's lone representative on the 1970's all-decade team, while the 1960's squad featured Wildcat pitchers Craig Collier, Bill Gilbreth and John Terry, infielders Tommy Knight and Perry Scott, and outfielder Mike Ward.
“From the very early stages of the Southland's formation, baseball was clearly a very competitive sport,” Southland commissioner Tom Burnett said. “These early teams, coaches and student-athletes set a high threshold for future programs in this sport, and as we have seen throughout our five decades, Southland baseball has always been played at a high competitive level.
“The level of Southland baseball in the 1970s was simply outstanding as the league transitioned into full Division I status and started making noise nationally. And, it was the beginning of Jim Gilligan's outstanding and historic tenure at Lamar that continues to this day.”
Gilligan is the winningest coach in Southland Conference history with more than 1,200 victories.
A former major leaguer with the Detroit Tigers and California Angels, Gilbreth pitched four seasons for the Wildcats and remains their all-time career leader with 445 strikeouts, a 2.14 earned-run average and two no-hit games (vs. Texas Tech and Dallas in 1967). He also holds the team's single game record for most strikeouts with 18, which he did four times between 1967 and his first team all-conference season of 1968.
In 1969, Gilbreth and Collier combined for 144 strikeouts and 12 of the Wildcats' 15 victories. Collier made first team all-conference that year after finishing with eight wins, a no-hitter vs. Texas-Arlington, and a 1.46 ERA, which is the fourth lowest in team history. Collier posted a 1.55 ERA the year prior, and his career ERA of 2.98 is the sixth lowest among all Wildcat pitchers.
Gilbreth returned to the ACU dugout as its head coach in 1991 and won 108 games through the 1995 season.
ACU's 1969 squad also featured a pair of first team all-conference hitters in Scott (1B) and Knight (SS). Scott that year hit .328 with a team-high 15 RBI, while Knight hit .319 with a home run and 13 RBI. Scott made conference honorable mention in 1970 and finished his three-year career at ACU with a .312 batting average.
Terry – the ace of the Wildcats' 1965 squad – was the program's first player to be named all-conference. He went 3-1 that season with 31 Ks and a 1.89 ERA, and the following year he tossed a no-hitter vs. West Texas.
O'Dell, who would later coach the Wildcats from 1977-79, was a four-year letterman who had a career batting average of .275. He twice led the team in hitting and won the George Kell Award as the top hitter in the Southland Conference as a senior in 1970 (.345).
O'Dell is also a former winner of ACU baseball awards for leadership and hitting.
In his lone season with the Wildcats (1966), Ward made first team all conference as a freshman after hitting a team-high three home runs with 13 RBI and .293 batting average.
The Southland Conference will continue to recognize all-decade teams in the near future.
Information for this story provided by ACU Athletics