Trying to stay alive

Just one week after humiliating the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, the Bearkats were moved into last place in the Southland Conference with a three-game sweep by former cellar-dwellers Southeastern Louisiana.

The good news for Bearkat baseball fans is that the team (15-26, 5-13 SLC) is still in close contention for the final playoff spot.

The race is close for every single team in the conference with the last place Bearkats only two games behind Texas-San Antonio (7-11 SLC, 20-21 overall) for the coveted sixth spot.

The Bearkats did receive a setback last weekend after three close games in Hammond, La.

“We lost all of them in the bottom half, with two of them being in extra innings,” assistant baseball coach Phillip Ghutzman said. “We could have gone out there winning three, but we ended up losing three, so that’s probably a credit to how evenly matched the conference is.”

The first game of Friday’s doubleheader was the closest of the weekend, as the Bearkats lost 6-5.

Sam Houston jumped to a 4-1 lead in the top of the fifth inning, thanks to a two run single by Lou Ferrell and a one run single by Phillip Weaver. The Lions would rally back, scoring four runs in the next three innings and holding the Bearkats to one, taking it to extra innings at five.

Brandon Foster also swung big for the Bearkats, going 5-for-6 in the series opener.

“With Brandon Foster, all year long, it seems like every time we can get him on base a couple times a game, we’re in good shape,” Ghutzman said.

It only took one extra frame to finish the job, as Carl Trosclair scored with two outs on a throwing error.

The second game proved to bring more heartbreak for Sam Houston, as the Bearkats nearly pulled out a tenth inning win, before their hopes were shattered by Anthony Garibaldi and his walk-off grand slam.

The tenth inning shot was Garibaldi’s third of the weekend and tied him with Texas-Arlington’s Ryan Roberts for the Southland Conference lead. Garibaldi was a threat to the Bearkats throughout the weekend, going 6-for-14 with five hits and eight RBIs. Seven of those RBIs came in Saturday’s game, as the slugger from Stockton, Calif. knocked in all but two of the team’s runs.

“He was kind of dissimilar to your normal three-hole power hitter,” Ghutzman said of Garibaldi. “We probably should have stayed with some more fastballs, but we kind of came out there with some breaking balls and it seemed to be playing into his power.”

On Saturday, it was dj vu all over again as Robert Larsen hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning to propel the Lions up 7-5 to close out the sweep.

Sam Houston was trailing 2-0 going into the eighth inning, where they would send 10 batters to the plate for a five-run rally.

The lead would not stay for long. One run was scored in the bottom of the eighth, and was followed by Larsen’s grand slam came in the ninth.

What the Bearkats were able to take away from the weekend was solid pitching from all three starters.

The shortest outing of the three was Phillip Gougler (1-5), who started the first game. The sophomore from Huntsville threw for 5 1/3 innings Friday, allowing eight hits and three runs. Gougler is one of the more reliable pitchers on the Bearkats’ staff, but despite his stellar performances, has a hard time coming away with a win.

“Your job as a starting pitcher is to just keep your team in the ballgame and we feel like he’s done that most of the time,” Ghutzman said. “It’s just been kind of a tough luck thing for him in at least three or four starts. It’s something as a starting pitcher you just have to keep your head up and get out there the next time, do the best you can and hopefully it’ll blow the other way for you.”

Zach Adkisson pitched for 8 2/3 innings in the second game Friday. The Southland Conference “Pitcher of the Week” two weeks ago gave up eight hits and three runs while striking out five before the game went into extra innings.

Jordan Tata went the distance in the third game. After throwing a brilliant 6 1/3 innings against Northwestern State, Tata pitched an 8 1/3 inning five hitter against the Lions. Six earned runs, however, reached the plate, but Tata struck out four on the way.

“We felt like they were still doing a pretty good job of throwing strikes and keeping us in the game,” Ghutzman said. “They were throwing strikes; it was just a couple mistakes that put us behind in the game.”

Despite a less than desirable weekend for the team, Ghutzman still believes the Bearkats are very much in the hunt for a playoff spot.

“We would have liked to have made up some ground this weekend,” Ghutzman said. “We have to feel confident. We’re not out of it yet.

“We’re only two games out of that spot, and with McNeese getting swept this weekend, anything can happen.”

The next game on Sam Houston’s agenda is tonight at College Station against Texas A&M at 7 p.m. The two teams have met twice already this season, so the Bearkats should be aware of what they have coming up.

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