CANYON – The West Texas A&M baseball team finished the regular season with 33-17 record overall and a 21-14 record in Lone Star Conference play, earning it the No. 2-seed in the upcoming Lone Star Conference Baseball Championship this coming weekend at Texas A&M-Kingsville. WT will play Tarleton State to open the tournament at 11 a.m. on Thursday at Nolan Ryan Field.
Live stat, ticket information and streaming links for the entire tournament can be found on www.gobuffsgo.com. Top-seeded TAMUK hosts No. 4-seed Angelo State at 3 p.m. with the losers of the first two games playing an elimination game at 7 p.m. on Thursday to complete the first day of the tournament.
If the Buffs were to beat Tarleton State, they would play Friday at 3 p.m. against the winner of the TAMUK/ASU contest. A win in that game would advance the team to the championship round Saturday at 12 p.m., with the “if necessary” game following at 4 p.m.
The Buffs are coming off of a disappointing 1-2 finish to the regular season at Cameron last weekend. WT has gong 9-12 in its last 21 games after starting 24-5. The 33 wins this season are tied for second-most in school history since baseball was reinstated in 1994. WT won 34 games in 1997 and 33 in 1999. It is the sixth season since 1994 that the Buffs have won over 30 games in a season and the first time in school history of back-to-back 30-win seasons.
Against Cameron, the Buffs had one of their best offensive series’ of the season as they hit .415 with 49 hits, four doubles, three triples and a season-high nine home runs, while scoring 33 runs. Senior Tyler McKnight led the team going 8 of 14 with a double, a triple three RBI and three runs scored for a .571 clip. Senior David Hebert hit .538 with seven hits, three runs scored and four RBI, while junior Jacob Caples had a monstrous series hitting .538 with three home runs and 10 driven in. Senior Matt Redfearn and junior Johnny Gaines each hit .500 for the week, while senior Beto Rodriguez hit .467 with two home runs and five RBI, along with six runs scored.
The pitching staff continued to struggle a bit as it had a 9.13 ERA, while Cameron had an 11.16 ERA. Senior Scott Cone picked up the lone win for the Buffs in 4.1 innings, while senior Dylan James lost for the third time this season, but fanned seven in the 8-3 opening loss. The team allowed 34 runs with 24 earned as seven errors proved costly leading to 10 unearned runs.
The Buffs lead the season series with each of the other three teams in the conference tournament. WT went 4-3 against TAMUK, 4-3 against Tarleton State and 5-2 against Angelo State for a 13-8 combined record. This is the first year of the field being four teams.
Last season in the LSC baseball championship in Canyon, WT was the No. 4 team of six teams and defeated third-seeded Angelo State in the first round, before falling to both Texas A&M-Kingsville and Tarleton State. WT is 5-10 all-time in the LSC Baseball Championship. The Buffs went 1-2 in 1994, 3-2 in 1995, 0-2 in 2006, 0-2 in 2012 and 1-2 in 2013.
Heading into last week, the Buffs were No. 2 in the latest NCAA South Central Region poll for the second-straight week. Colorado Mesa was the top team in the region, followed by the Buffs, Texas A&M-Kingsville, New Mexico Highlands, St. Edward's and St. Mary's round out the top six who, if the regional started today, would be in the field. Tarleton State was seventh in the poll, followed by Angelo State. The Buffs are looking for their first NCAA Tournament since baseball was reinstated as a sport in 1994.
This season, the Buffs are led by senior Tyler McKnight who leads the team with a conference-best .414 batting average in 39 games. He also has reached safely in all 39 games this season. McKnight is third in hits with 67 and leads the team with 12 doubles. He is second in triples with five and has one home run. He has scored 33 runs and driven in 24. McKnight leads the team with 10 steals in 12 attempts and is slugging .568 and reaching base at a .446 clip. He ranks fourth in the LSC in hits, ranks 37th nationally in triples and fourth in the conference.
Second on the team in average is junior Nick Chapman at a .378 clip. He leads the team with 73 hits and is second in runs scored with 44. Chapman has 11 doubles, three triples and four home runs which is good for third on the team. He is slugging .528 and reaching base at a .438 clip. Senior David Hebert is third in average at .357. He is second in hits (70), third in runs scored (37) and had 10 doubles, along with two triples and one home run, while driving in 34.
Junior Aaron Blair leads the team with 42 RBI and is hitting .335 with 60 hits, eight doubles and two home runs. Redfearn, Chapman and Hebert are the only three players to have played and started all 50 games. Redfearn is hitting .328 and leads the team with 201 at bats and 50 runs scored.
As a team, the Buffs are hitting .325 for the year with 569 hits, including 90 doubles, 25 triples, 27 home runs and 306 RBI on 351 runs. WT is slugging .452 and reaching base at a .386 clip. The Buffs have gone 34 of 44 in stolen bases and have a .965 fielding percentage with 66 errors leading to 49 unearned runs.
On the mound, the Buffs have a 4.21 ERA in 417.1 innings, allowing 244 runs with 195 earned runs as teams are hitting .262 against the Buffs. WT has 10 complete games with seven shutouts and six saves on the year.
The staff is led by James who has a 2.44 ERA with an 8-3 record in 13 starts. He leads the team with 85 innings pitched and is fourth nationally in strikeouts with a school-record 107. Teams are hitting just .200 against him. Cone is second in ERA among starters at 4.21. He is 6-2 on the year in 13 starts with one complete game and one shutout. He has pitched 72.2 innings for third on the team and tied for second in strikeouts with 64. Senior Josh Weyker is third in ERA at 4.74 among starters with 7-5 record in 13 starts. He has a team-high six complete games with four shutouts in 76.1 innings and tied for second in strikeouts with 64.
WT won three of four against Tarleton State in Stephenville, while the Texans won two of three in Canyon. McKnight hit .391 against the Texans in five starts, while Hebert and Blair each led the way with 11 hits in seven games. Junior Dylan Dyson had two round-trippers against TSU as WT hit .321 in the seven games with 11 doubles, two triples and three home runs. Both teams have scored 39 runs in the series this season.
On the mound, James went 2-0 with a 4.76 ERA in 11.1 innings against TSU. He fanned 12 and walked six. Weyker went 1-1 and Cone was 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in two starts and 11.1 innings. He had 11 strikeouts with tree walks. TSU hit .293 for the seven games with 14 doubles one triple and five home runs on 68 hits.