BY CASEY GISCLAIR
The formula was clear.
The Nicholls baseball team had to win their weekend series at Abilene Christian to feel secure about making the Southland Conference Tournament. With one win in three games, the Colonels still had a shot to advance, but would have needed help from other teams in the league.
But the Wildcats didn’t play along with Nicholls’ plans. They neither allowed Nicholls to win the series nor to win a single game.
Abilene Christian swept Nicholls on their home field this past weekend — scoring a 10-8 win on Thursday, then a 5-4 and 6-2 doubleheader sweep on Friday afternoon and night.
The losses end Nicholls’ season with a 27-28 record and a 13-17 mark in Southland play.
The 2019 shortcomings mark the third time in four seasons that the Colonels don’t reach the eight-team field.
The Colonels were behind the 8-ball from the start against the Wildcats.
In the first game of the series, Abilene Christian led 7-1 after five innings, pouncing on Nicholls’ starter Trever Kilcrease and chasing him out of the game.
The Colonels had chances late, scoring three runs in the top of the sixth inning to cut the deficit to 7-4.
But Abilene answered those runs with three of their own to go back up 10-4.
Nicholls threatened again in the top of the eighth inning, plating four runs — the big blows coming from 2 RBI hits from Dillon Belle and Dane Simon.
But the Colonels couldn’t threaten any further, going up and down in order in the top of the ninth inning to surrender the opening game of the series to the Wildcats.
That opening-game loss made Friday an all or nothing day for Nicholls. The series was expected to be Thursday, Friday, Saturday. But severe weather in Texas over the weekend pushed the Saturday game up to Friday night in a day-night doubleheader.
For Nicholls, they knew they had to either sweep the doubleheader with Abilene Christian or head into their offseason earlier than expected.
And they didn’t deliver — though they had their chances.
In the opening game of the doubleheader, the Colonels blew late leads twice en route to a 5-4 defeat in 13 innings.
Nicholls led 2-1 going into the bottom of the ninth inning — the final at-bat for the Wildcats.
But the Colonels allowed a leadoff single to Riley Donahue to start the inning. Seth Watts ran for Donahue. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, tagged up to third base on a fly ball, then scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.
That sent the game to extra innings where, again, Nicholls appeared poised to win the game.
The Colonels scored two runs in the top of the 13th inning on a 2-RBI double from right fielder Alex Paz to take a 4-2 lead.
But Nicholls didn’t even record an out in the bottom of the 13th inning.
The Wildcats sent five batters to the plate in the rally — all reaching successfully.
Luis Trevino walked with the bases loaded and no outs to cut the deficit to 4-3.
The next batter, Dalon Farkas, ended the game, poking a base hit to right field to plate two runners and secure a 5-4 Abilene win.
Even with the heartbreak, the Colonels still could have backdoored their way into the Southland Conference Tournament had they won the finale against Abilene Christian.
Other results around the league opened a path for the Colonels and a win in the final game of the season could have clinched Nicholls the No. 8 seed in the league.
But Nicholls again didn’t deliver, falling 6-2 in the final game of their season.
Abilene led 2-1 after five innings, then blew the game open with four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to go up 6-1.
The Colonels never seriously threatened again, falling flat and having their season end on the road at the hands of their conference rival.
The losses mark a disappointing end for Nicholls — though the team has dealt with adversity throughout the year.
The Colonels were young in 2019 with just five seniors. The team also battled multiple injuries throughout the season, which impacted the depth chart.
Coach Seth Thibodeaux said earlier this season that the team’s goal was to compete through the adversity and hopefully make a run. That didn’t happen in 2019, but the coach said throughout the season that he believes there are bright days ahead for Nicholls.
“We’ve had so many guys step up for us,” Thibodeaux said. “We’ve taken some lumps and we’ve had to deal with so many different things. But we’ve found guys we can rely on in the process and I think that’s going to just make us better in the future.” •