The Texas State baseball team failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament this year, but the Bobcats can still hang their caps on a .500 record after a difficult start to the season for its young team.
By winning two of three at the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Tournament in Grand Prairie during the past weekend, the Bobcats finished the 2013 season 29-29 overall. The Bobcats haven’t had a losing season since finishing 29-30 in 2006, and their last losing season before then was in 1996.
After losing five straight games in Oregon in March, the Bobcats were 5-13, their low point of the season. They stabilized to win half of their next 16 games, then finished 17-9, mostly against the WAC, to bring themselves even in the end.
The Bobcats were entered in a pool for the WAC Tournament that included New Mexico State, Dallas Baptist and Texas-Arlington. They ended up tied with Dallas Baptist in the pool, both at 2-1. However, the Bobcats lost their game in the pool to Dallas Baptist, which enabled Dallas Baptist to advance to the tournament championship game against Texas-San Antonio (UTSA). For winning that game, UTSA won the WAC bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Bobcats opened the WAC Tournament with a breezy, 9-4 win against New Mexico State. The Bobcats broke a 2-2 tie with three runs in the third, then tacked up four more runs in the fifth inning to establish a 9-2 lead. Garrett Mattlage hit a solo homer in the third inning, after Morgan Mickan broke the 2-2 tie with an RBI single. Mattlage added an RBI hit in the fifth inning, during which Ben McElroy hit a solo homer and Colby Targun added a two-run single. Mattlage finished the game three-for-five, while McElroy scored two runs. Texas State starting pitcher Lucas Hempal allowed only two runs in 6 2/3 innings, improving his record to 5-2.
However, Dallas Baptist turned the tables on the Bobcats in their next game, scoring four times in the fifth for a 7-1 lead on the way to a 7-5 win. Austin O’Neal led Texas State with a three-for-four day at the plate. Tyler Pearson was two-for-three, extending his hitting streak to 12 games. Nick Smelser hit a three-run homer in the eighth, bringing the Bobcats within 7-5. But the Bobcats went down in order in the ninth and never brought the tying run to the plate.
Right after that game, New Mexico State upset UTA, 4-3, meaning all four teams in the pool were tied at 1-1 going into the final round of those games. In that round, the Bobcats needed New Mexico State to take down Dallas Baptist, in which case they would win the pool with a victory over UTA. However, Dallas Baptist registered a 12-4 win over the Aggies, eliminating the Bobcats because they had lost to Dallas Baptist.
Thus, UTA still had a chance to advance to the championship game with a win against the Bobcats, but all the Bobcats had left to play for was a win so they could at least show a break-even record for the season. The Bobcats came up strong for that achievement, putting an 11-2 drubbing on UTA.
The Bobcats scored a run in the top of the first, added two more runs in the third and blew up for four runs in the sixth, establishing a 7-0 lead.
A 15-hit attack keyed the Texas State victory. The top two men in the order, Kevin Sah and Targun, each finished the day three-for-five with three runs and two RBI. Sah hit a solo homer in the eighth. Mattlage was two-for-four with three RBI.
Six Texas State pitchers combined to allow eight hits and no earned runs, led by starter and winner Mitchell Pitts, who worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing four hits and two runs, both unearned.