Amarillo College opens conference taking series at Frank Phillips


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David De Hoyos (15) of Amarillo College recorded the second inside-the-park homer in program history on Sunday in the Badgers series at Frank Phillips College. [Nathan Heuer/ AC athletics]

By Nathan Heuer 

Adversity struck in the rarest of forms to begin the conference slate for the Amarillo College baseball team.

Despite a trip to Borger on Saturday that resulted in no games due to a lack of an umpire and a game two run-rule defeat on Sunday, AC displayed perseverance and grit against Frank Phillips College to garner a 3-1 series victory to begin play in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference.

“We were lights out on the mound in games 1, 2, and 4. We showed tremendous resolve today and our bats continued to produce at a high rate,” Amarillo College head coach Brandon Rains said after the conclusion of the series. “It says a lot about our team to overcome the challenges presented over the past two days.”

Amarillo College batters tallied 40 hits and the Badger pitching staff recorded 44 strikeouts over the course of the four-game series compared to the Plainsmen’s 27 hits and 29 strikeouts.

The Badgers started the series on Sunday with a 6-2 victory in game one – headlined by a David De Hoyos inside-the-park home run and a nine-strikeout performance by ace pitcher Bret Deegan.

Following their second run-rule defeat of the season to conclude play on Sunday, AC tallied a double-digit run total for the eighth time this season in a 11-6 game three victory.

All nine Badger batters recorded at least one hit in the contest. Chris Benavidez led the team with three hits and Grant Watkins’ two-run homer in the sixth frame all but ended the hopes of a late rally for the home team as AC took a 10-4 lead.

Lubbock natives Lawson Peel and Colton Klemke combined for 14 strikeouts on the mound in game four on Monday to lead the Badgers to a series-clinching 8-2 win.

Sophomore shortstop Jan Avila hit his third homer of the season during the nine-inning contest.

Amarillo College’s season record improved to 15-5 with the trio of victories against the Plainsmen.

The Badgers are tied for first place in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference with El Paso Community College following the first week of the WJCAC slate.

Up next for the Badgers is a four-game home series at Hodgetown, March 15-16, against Western Texas College (8-14, 1-3). The pair of doubleheaders are scheduled to begin at noon each day.

The homestand marks the second-to-last series that will be played at Hodgetown for the Badgers.

The following is a summary of each game from the Badgers conference opener at Plainsmen Field.

Freshman Bret Deegan maintained his perfect pitching record, improving to 5-0 on Sunday to open conference play for AC. [Nathan Heuer/ AC athletics]

Game 1

Bret Deegan’s storybook start to his career continued.

The Badger bats ensured their freshman pitcher’s record would stay unblemished.

Deegan moved to the game one starting pitcher role for the first time after starting game two during the first four series of the season.

The sign of confidence by AC head coach Brandon Rains was validated without question as the Klein Oak High School product struck out nine batters while allowing only two earned runs and three hits.

Deegan’s record improved to 5-0 following the 6-2 win in Sunday’s series-opening contest.

Amarillo College gained a 1-0 lead in the second inning before the Plainsmen plated a pair of baserunners in the third frame, taking a 2-1 lead into the fourth.

With two outs, an Avila single, Payton Bush single, and Chris Benavidez double gave the Badgers a 3-2 advantage.

Freshman Gerardo Prado’s sac fly in the fifth inning and De Hoyos’ inside-the-park homer in the sixth capped scoring for game one.

Noah Turner relieved Deegan on the mound for the last five outs of the game. The 6-foot-5 freshman from Gregory Portland High School struck out two batters and allowed no hits or walks.

The Badgers outhit Frank Phillips 11-3 during the contest.

Game 2

The Plainsmen entered the series against Amarillo College with a pair of wins over top-15 ranked teams at NJCAA Division I level – No. 14 Tyler Junior College, No. 7 Weatherford College – and offense with plenty of potency as their 20 home runs and .339 batting average suggested.

Frank Phillips displayed their potential as a unit once again in a 11-1 win over the Badgers.

The Plainsmen took advantage of 11 walks, which was paired with eight hits and a Jordan Oriach three-run homer in the second inning.

Frank Phillips gained a 6-0 advantage after two frames and scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth to end the game.

AC starting pitcher Gabe Watson had his record move to 2-3 with the loss. The sophomore struck out four batters, allowed six earned runs, four hits, and six walks in two innings.

Carter Beard relieved Watson in the third frame and struck out four batters, allowed five earned runs, three hits, and five walks.

The Badgers were outhit 8-5 as AC struck out 10 times, marking the sixth contest this season the team has had more K’s than hits.

Freshman second baseman and Randall graduate Payton Bush tallied a team-best two hits and one run during the six-inning contest.

Shortstop Jan Avila attempts to turn a doubleheader play in game four of AC’s series against Frank Phillips College. [Nathan Heuer/ AC athletics]

Game 3

Momentum seemingly continued from game two for the Plainsmen in the early stages of game three on Monday. Frank Phillips took a 4-1 lead by the end of the second inning.

Deegan, Prado, and Luis Gonzalez changed the narrative in the following the frame.

Deegan hit a double, Watkins was walked, and Prado ensued with a double with two outs to narrow the Badgers deficit to 4-3.

Gonzalez’s RBI single to left field gave AC the lead for good at 5-4 before the conclusion of the third inning.

The Badgers plated one run in the fourth frame, four in the sixth, and one in the seventh.

Benavidez recorded three singles, Sydney Ward had his most productive game of the series at the plate with two hits, and Prado recorded a pair of hits to pace the Badgers offensively.

De Hoyos, Deegan, Watkins, Gonzalez, Avila, and Bush scratched out one hit apiece.

On the mound, Duncan Bowles improved his record as a starting pitcher to 5-0 after throwing a season-high 101 pitcher in 5.2 innings. The 6-foot-6 freshman from Randall struck out a season-high nine batters and allowed three earned runs.

Turner provided pitching relief in the fifth inning. With the appearance, he became the first Badger pitcher this season to pitch in two games during a single series.

The freshman struck out two batters and allowed two earned runs.

AC outhit Frank Phillips 13-5 and committed one error compared to four errors for the Plainsmen.

Game 4

Lawson Peel and Colton Klemke did not pitch a season ago for the Badgers.

Peel was out for the entire 2023 season with an injury while Klemke spent a year away from the game before joining the program.

The Lubbock natives continued their comeback stories with a series hanging in the balance entering game four.

Peel got the start on the hill and went a season-high four innings before Klemke took over pitching duties.

Peel tallied seven strikeouts, allowed two earned runs, and walked two batters in his fifth appearance of the season.

Klemke allowed no earned runs, struck out seven batters, allowed three hits, and walked four in the final five innings.

Amarillo College broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning via a Prado single that drove in Ward.

Avila’s solo home run in the sixth frame extended AC’s lead to 4-2. Bush scored on a Plainsmen throwing error to make it a 5-2 game heading into the seventh.

A Gonzalez triple and a Avila groundout, which drove in his fellow Puerto Rican, gave the Badgers a 7-2 advantage.

Prado’s sacrifice fly brought home De Hoyos, who singled to begin the inning, to conclude scoring for the game.

Klemke recorded two strikeouts and forced a ground out in the bottom half of the ninth frame.

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