Inconsistency affects Bobcats in 2015 season

Sports Reporter

The season ended for the Texas State baseball team May 23 when they failed to advance to the Sun Belt Conference Championship.

The team lost to Louisiana- Lafayette, the eventual victor of the championship.

The team had two opportunities to advance, but were not able to reach their first title game.

Texas State finished their season with a 24-32-1 record, including the loss. Assistant Coach Jeremy Fikac called the team “inconsistent,” adding that this flaw is one of the reasons the team did not do as well this year.

The 2015 season did not start off well for the Bobcats. 

The team went 1-5-1 in their first seven games, including a 10-0 blowout loss against Sam Houston State at home. Following the loss, Fikac said the program hit “rock bottom.”

Not only did the team start off cold, but they experienced a change is leadership two weeks before the season started.

Coach Ty Harrington was diagnosed with rectal cancer and forced to take a leave of absence. All of the assistant coaches were forced to step up—including Fikac, who took over as Harrington’s replacement. 

“I was shocked, but I was more concerned about (Harrington),” Fikac said. “I understood that I had a job to do, and I felt like I had to do it. All of our coaches did a great job stepping up too.”

Fikac, the team’s pitching coach, has experience playing baseball for Texas State and at the professional level.

Under Fikac, the Bobcats escaped from the 1-5-1 hole with the third-ranked Houston Cougars.

The team came out to play against the Cougars, upsetting them 7-6 on Feb. 25 at Bobcat Ballpark. 

Beating Houston was a positive note of their inconsistent season.

The Bobcats went on to win six of their next nine Sun Belt games, and the team was near the top in the conference standings. 

The team took a break from conference matchups as they played three games against the Baylor Bears, who are an in-state rival. 

This was the first time the two played in a three-game series, and Texas State came away with a series sweep of the Bears. 

Scott Grist, senior pitcher, had one of his best performances in the series against Baylor. 

Grist pitched in game two and recorded a complete shutout, allowing two hits against the Bears.

“The sweep against Baylor was my favorite moment this season,” Fikac said. “Our energy and execution levels were great, and we even had a walk-off home run by Granger Studdard in the first game.”

Texas State watched their strong conference start go down the drain as their record went from 8-4 to 10-11 in April. 

Texas State took the momentum from the 8-7 loss to the Aggies into the weekend against Georgia State. The team won two of the three games that weekend, recording their first conference series victory after three series losses. 

Texas State saw an opportunity to clinch a berth in the conference tournament, with two Sun Belt series left on the schedule against Arkansas State and UT-Arlington. Both teams were in the bottom half of the standings.

The Red Wolves swept the Bobcats and the possibility of watching the Sun Belt tournament from home was looming over Texas State.

One more series remained, and the Bobcats would clinch a berth with two wins.

The team dropped the first game against the Mavericks, 7-6. Then Grist, who Fikac called the pitching Most Valuable Player, came out to get the team back on track in the second game of the series. 

Grist did just that with his second complete game of the season, and the team won 4-1. 

"I will definitely remember this game for the rest of my life,” Grist said. “I didn’t want this game to be my last in a Texas State uniform.”

The team was one step closer to getting into the tournament, but they still needed a win or help from other teams to clinch.

A season high of 22 runs against the Mavericks sealed a spot in the tournament.

There were many milestones reached in the game, including a school record being tied by Tanner Hill, junior catcher, with nine runs batted in. 

Hill, who came on at the end of the season, finished the year leading the team in batting average at .320. 

“Tanner Hill was the offensive MVP for our team this season,” Fikac said. “He was huge for us in the last 15 games and his numbers indicate it.”

Texas State clinched the sixth seed in the tournament with their offensive blowout against UT-Arlington.

The team went on to face Louisiana-Lafayette to start the tournament, finishing a ninth inning comeback to defeat the Ragin’ Cajuns. In the second round, the Bobcats won 10-2. Texas State ended their tournament run in the semifinals against Louisiana-Lafayette. 

Fikac is excited to see his freshmen come back with a season under their belt.

Luke Sherley, freshman shortstop, is one of the younger players Fikac is excited to see grow. Sherley, who Fikac said was the most improved player this season, will be manning shortstop for as long as he is on the team.

Texas State will lose Grist, David Paiz (senior third baseman), Cedric Vallieres (senior second baseman), Colby Targun (senior outfielder), Ben McElroy (senior first baseman) and Blake Whitter (senior pitcher).

“I thought we’d have more wins, and I wish the outcome in the tournament was different,” Fikac said. “I do know our kids grew a lot and played better towards the end of the year. These kids overcame a lot and I have no regret."