UTD sets sights on ASC tourney

The UTD baseball team is nearing the 30-win mark with a hopeful eye on the conference championship.

The Comets (27-4, 13-2) have won their last six games, all against conference opponents, and are only a game behind nationally ranked Mississippi College for first place in the American Southwest Conference (ASC) East.

The team has had win streaks of six, seven and eight games over the course of the season.

The Comets squared off March 30 against McMurry and Hardin-Simmons in Abilene.

In the first game, the Comets slammed three home runs – one each by senior first baseman Lawrence Valbuena, junior shortstop Johnny Espree and senior outfielder Fielding Lewis – en route to an 8-6 victory over McMurry.

Valbuena had a stellar game at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs to go along with his homer.

In the second game of the night against Hardin-Simmons, UTD was unable to overcome an early 8-2 deficit, eventually falling 10-7, in their first loss in eight games.

Although the two games do not count in the conference standings, they were still important matchups as the Comets may face either team in the ASC championship tournament.

The team returned to conference play April 2-3, sweeping a three-game series at Louisiana College.

In the first game, every Comet in the starting lineup got a hit, including three each by senior second baseman Matt Endsley and junior designated hitter Rob Spencer, as the Comets pounded the Wildcats 12-1.

Junior southpaw Kevin McKnight pitched a gem, allowing only two hits over eight innings while striking out seven.

The opener on Saturday was a much closer game, but UTD managed to pull out a 5-3 victory behind home runs by Spencer and senior catcher Dillon Short.

The series finale was a tight game until the Comets struck late for seven runs in the final two innings to win 9-1. Junior right-handed pitcher Gordon Walters allowed five hits while striking out seven in his six innings of work.

The Comets returned home to face the Ozarks in a three-game series on April 9-10, only to walk away with three more conference victories.

McKnight took the mound on Friday’s opener to pitch a complete game, two-hit shutout while striking out six.

The team needed McKnight’s strong performance as they didn’t score a run until the final inning. In the bottom of the seventh, senior third baseman Mike Biguenet hit a double and then scored on a single by Fielding Lewis, allowing the Comets to squeak by 1-0.

The second game also saw a great pitching performance as senior right-hander Tony Adler struck out 10 while allowing just five hits, dropping his team leading ERA to 0.41.

The team took advantage of the eight walks and four wild pitches allowed by Ozark pitchers to win the game 5-0.

The Comets showed off their bats the next day, collecting 19 hits including four homers and two triples.

Endsley slammed two home runs and Johnny Espree picked up 4 hits as the Comets rolled over the Ozarks 15-3.

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