Amarillo College splits home series with Western Texas College

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Luis Gonzalez (27) of Amarillo College celebrates his first home run of the season during game two on Friday at Hodgetown. [Nathan Heuer/ AC athletics]

By Nathan Heuer 

Perfection continued this past weekend for a pair of Amarillo College freshmen ace pitchers.

And the Badger bats set a new precedent in a four-game series split against Western Texas College on Friday and Saturday at Hodgetown.

Bret Deegan and Randall graduate Duncan Bowles improved their records as starting pitchers to 6-0 and 5-0 respectively in games one and three.

At the plate, Amarillo College set a program record for most hits in a series (60) and most hits in a single game (22) since the reboot of athletics.

In the series opener, Deegan became the first pitcher since the reboot of athletics to record a double-digit strikeout total in three games during a single season. The righty tallied 10 strikeouts and gave up no hits or earned runs in five innings, leading AC to an 8-1 victory.

Bowles started game three on Saturday and struck out nine batters for his second consecutive conference outing. The 6-foot-6 Randall High recorded his first complete game in the contest.

Amarillo College won game three 11-1 via a run-rule stoppage after five innings.

Second baseman Payton Bush batted a team-best .833 average in games one and three. The freshman from Randall High concluded the series with the second-highest BA on the team (.533) via eight hits in 15 at-bats.

Bush, a Randall graduate, has proven to be one of the most improved players on the roster over the past two weeks. In 16 non-conference games, the infielder had a .324 batting average. Since WJCAC play began, he’s hit a .483 average and improved his slugging percentage from .353 during the non-conference slate to .552 in the past eight games.

During last weekend’s series, Bush was one of six batters who finished with a .350 batting average or higher. The group included Cam Saleh (.444), Chris Benavidez (.419), Grant Watkins (.385), and David De Hoyos (.357).

The Badgers enter the third week of their conference schedule tied for third place in the WJCAC.

New Mexico Military Institute and AC sport 5-3 conference records currently. Midland College and New Mexico Junior College led the WJCAC with 6-2 WJCAC records.

Up next for Amarillo College is a road series at El Paso Community College, March 22-23.

The following is a summary of each game against Western Texas.

Amarillo College’s Payton Bush slides safe into second base for a double following a throwing error to first base by the Westerners. [Nathan Heuer/ AC athletics]

Game 1

Amarillo College’s five-run first inning propelled the Badgers to a series-opening win on Friday. The Badgers combined four singles and a sacrifice fly with two walks in the frame to score the five runs.

Benavidez, De Hoyos, Sydney Ward, and Luis Gonzalez each had a hit in the first inning.

On the mound, Deegan put his rapid tempo on full display from the get-go. The freshman struck out five batters and walked two in the first two frames.

Isaac Garza, a freshman from Plainview, took over pitching duties for innings six and seven. The former Bulldog struck out one batter and allowed two hits in his seventh appearance this spring.

Bush and Saleh finished the contest with perfect batting percentages (1.000). The duo led the Badgers with three hits apiece. Benavidez finished with two hits.

The Badgers outhit the Westerners 13-2 to open the series.

 

Game 2

The highest scoring game since the reboot of athletics for the AC baseball team tilted in the favor of Western Texas by the end of Friday’s nine-inning shootout.

Despite outhitting the away team 22-14, the Westerners defeated Amarillo College by the score of 20-16.

Free bases played a significant factor in the loss. Amarillo College pitchers walked 15 Western Texas batters compared to four walks allowed by the Westerner pitching staff.

Offensively, eight of the nine Badger starters had double-digit hit totals – led by Benavidez’s three singles and a double.

Saleh, Gonzalez, and Jan Avila tallied one home run apiece. Avila’s solo homer moved his season total to four – tied for fourth on the Badgers roster.

AC now has hit three or more home runs during four games in 2024.

The 22 hits by the Badgers in Friday’s finale were the most recorded in program history.

Amarillo College pitcher Duncan Bowles struck out nine hitters during his start against Western Texas College. [Nathan Heuer/ AC athletics]

Game 3

Grant Watkins became the first Badger this season to hit back-to-back home runs to begin play on Saturday, leading the Badgers to their fifth run-rule victory of 2024.

Watkins’ two-run homer in the first frame gave the Badgers a 2-0 lead out of the gates. The sophomore first baseman followed with a three-run shot over the right field fence, giving the Badgers an 8-0 advantage heading into the third inning.

A De Hoyos single, Bush single, and Avila single pushed the Badgers lead to 11-2 in the fourth inning. Gerardo Prado ended the game with a single an inning later, driving in Benavidez.

Bowles withstood an early scoring threat by Western Texas. After striking out the first batter of the game, the freshman walked three consecutive batters before the Badgers defense ended the frame via two fly outs.

Bowles struck out three consecutive batters in the second inning and walked only two additional batters the rest of the way.

The righty’s nine strikeouts tied a career-high total through six appearances.

Game 4

Saleh’s second home run of the series gave the Badgers a 2-0 lead in the second inning of Saturday’s series finale.

Western Texas College took the lead for good in the top of the third frame, plating five runs to take a 5-2 advantage.

Amarillo College narrowed their deficit to 5-4 before the Westerners scored three runs in the seventh frame, one in the eighth, and two in the ninth.

The Badgers scored their two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Ward, Watkins, and Prado tallied a team-best three hits apiece.

The Westerners outhit Amarillo College 11-6 and committed one less error (2-1) than the home team.

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