Following a highly successful week of wins and conference accolades, the Sam Houston State University baseball team disappointed this weekend in what could have been an easy sweep of a sub-par team.
The Bearkats won just one game in a three-game series against Southeastern Louisiana, a bottom-feeder in the Southland Conference, and dropped their record to 16-14 overall, 8-4 in conference play.
“Unfortunately, it may be the case,” said Head Coach Chris Rupp when asked if his team performs its best against better competition. “But that’s mental no doubt. You’ve got to play every game like you’re playing against Rice.”
In the first game of the series Friday night, SHSU quickly jumped ahead of the Lions (13-13, 4-5 SLC) by scoring five runs in the first three innings while holding SE LA scoreless. Starting pitcher Timothy Gray (4-1) held the Lions hitless in the top of the first and earned the win with six solid innings pitched for the Bearkats.
After getting just one hit in the first inning, the Bearkats went wild at the plate in the bottom of the second. Left fielder Ryan Trevino, who went 4 for 5, lead off the inning with a single followed by another single from DH Matt Fry.
Gregory O’Neill trickled a nice bunt down the third baseline to load the bases and set up catcher Adam Perry’s sacrifice fly to bring in the first run of the game.
Up 1-0, the Bearkats were far from through. Working around two outs, SHSU scored three more runs as Dustin Martin doubled with the bases loaded. After the dust from the SHSU runners cleared the field at the end of the inning, the Bearkats found themselves on top 4-0.
“I’ve been very pleased with our hitting. We’re getting hits in the double figures,” Rupp said. “In the beginning of the season I was pleased with our pitching. But we’ve fallen off in defensive pitching.”
Through the third inning, Gray held the Lions to just one hit and no runs. Yet in the top of the fourth, SE LA cracked the iron fist with a pair of runs, despite excellent infield-play by the trio of O’Neill, Clint Mann and Karl Krailo.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Bearkats answered with their own pair of runs off hits by Trevino and O’Neill.
With the Bearkats quickly running away with the 7-2 lead, the Lions came up with a surprising rally attempt in the top of the sixth. The Lions were able to steal three hits from Gray and, with help from errors in the Bearkat infield, scored four runs to put the game within their reach, 7-6.
Jesse Marshall took the mound in the top of the seventh and pitched the remaining three innings, allowing one hit and two runs to earn the save.
SHSU put the game away in the final two innings by capitalizing off of three Lion errors, bringing five Bearkat runs across the plate.
Fry and O’Neill hit a pair of doubles consecutively in the bottom of the seventh to start the inning off with additional points on the board. To increase the Bearkats’ lead, Perry and Martin each singled and brought the score to 10-6.
A pair of errors by the Lions’ infield allowed SHSU to bring in two more runs off hits from Fry and Holzbach.
SE LA made a last ditch attempt to come back in the final inning of the game. But with solid pitching from Marshall, the Lions were only able to fit in a pair of unearned runs, giving the Bearkats the win with a final score of 12-8.
The following two games on Saturday and Sunday proved too much for the Bearkats, who dropped both decisions to the Lions, 7-4, 7-5.
“The series this weekend was obviously not too good. We lost two out of three,” Rupp said. “We need to get better defensively. We’ll probably work on the pitching this week in practice.”
The pair of losses to Southeastern Louisiana brings the Bearkats down from second to fourth place in the conference, trailing third place Texas State University (10-5, 14-19 SLC) by two wins.
The Bearkats travel all this week, taking on Texas Southern University Tuesday in Houston followed by a three-game series beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Thibodaux, Louisiana against SLC opponent Nicholls State.