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Redshirt senior outfielder Skyler Valentine warms up before an inning.

Photo by Kate Connors.

Another Texas State team’s season was cut shorter than many fans wanted after the NCAA announced the 64 team bracket for the NCAA Tournament on Monday. Central Florida, Houston, Missouri and Texas State Baseball all were on the outside looking in after Texas Christian University took the final spot in the tournament.

The season got away from the Bobcats in the Sun Belt Championship tournament with back-to-back losses against the tenth seed University of Louisiana Monroe and fifth seed Coastal Carolina University. Against the Warhawks, the Bobcats were never able to recover after junior pitcher Nicholas Fraze gave up six runs in the second inning.

The Bobcats went scoreless, with junior Jaxon Williams and senior Jaylen Hubbard combining for 1-8 from the plate for an 8-0 loss. The Coastal Carolina matchup saw a lot of repeat behavior. This time, senior pitcher Connor Reich gave up seven runs in four and 1/3 innings, including four in the second. The bats warmed up a little for this game with the Bobcats cutting the lead to one run in the top of the fifth before ultimately falling 13-4.

Fans were more disappointed in the way the team lost rather than the losses themselves for the final two games of the season. Preceding the tournament, the Bobcats had scored 48 runs in their last six games.

Despite a quick elimination in the tournament, a disappointing end should not overshadow a historic season performance.

The Bobcats had a record-breaking season, winning 30+ games for the fourth time in five years to take most wins since 2011. This season also marked the first time the Bobcats had been crowned the Sun Belt regular season champions since joining the league in 2011. Head coach Ty Harrington was rewarded for the season’s success by winning his third Coach of the Year honor.

The team also made its mark as a significant Texas baseball team this season, shocking fans by defeating both powerhouses Texas A&M and the University of Texas. Texas State ended their trailblazing season with a 20-10 conference record and a 36-20 finish overall.

Bobcat bats were hot all season. For the first time in over five years, Texas State had four hitters who hit over .300 with sophomore Dalton Shuffield, senior Jaylen Hubbard, junior Will Hollis and junior 1st Team All-Sun Belt honoree Jaxon Williams all batting well over the mark.

Hubbard also led the team in home runs, hitting eight on the season and walking away with second-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors. Senior Ryan Newman was also able to knock pitches out of the park, overcoming his hitting woes to put down six runs this season.

The Texas State pitching staff once again had on-and-off performances, with the staff (4.84) ranking below the NCAA average for team ERA. Both Reich and junior Fraze earned honors as starters for the Bobcats. Reich was named to the Sun Belt Conference first team and was the first Bobcat Pitcher of the Year since Houston Astro minor leaguer Travis Ballew in 2012, while Fraze was given second-team honors.

The University Star Standout Player of the Year was senior Skyler Valentine, whose heroics against the University of Texas in April gave Texas State only its fourth win all-time against the Longhorns.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Bobcats were able to score four runs capped off by Valentines single to left field that scored John Wuthrich. Valentine batted .259 on the season with six home runs and 41 RBIs, trailing only Will Hollis in that category in seven fewer at-bats.

Even though fans may be disappointed in yet another quick season finish for Texas State teams, Bobcat baseball exceeded expectations by clinching the regular season championship and setting a standard for seasons to come. As the program builds on this success, Bobcat baseball could become a force to be reckoned with in the SBC and even the NCAA Championship tournament.

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