The Sam Houston State Bearkats (30-15) hosted the Houston Cougars (28-16) Tuesday night to close out the first annual Don Sanders Cup. The Bearkats already clinched the cup by winning each of the first two games against the Cougars, but the Kats completed the sweep on Tuesday with a 3-2 victory.
After an error filled weekend against McNeese State, the Bearkats decided to adjust their defense in the field with several players playing out of position.
“These guys know I’m not the type to sit idly by and watch us not get it done,” head coach Matt Deggs said. “So, I’ll mix it up, and I think it’s good for you mentally to.”
The changes in the field had an immediate impact on the Bearkats, as senior shortstop Andrew Fregia, the usual third baseman, made a throwing error on what seemed to be a routine groundout that kept the inning alive. The Cougars loaded the bases and freshman outfielder Lael Lockhart drove in the first run of the game on a single to right field. The Cougars added another run in the second inning on an RBI single to left field by junior catcher Connor Wong, making the score 2-0 in UH’s favor.
Bearkat starting pitcher, freshman Brad Demco, made it through the third inning scoreless, before he was relieved by sophomore Collin Cameron after allowing a runner on with one out in the fourth inning. Cameron was able to get the last two runners out to keep the score 2-0. Cameron worked through the first batter of the fifth inning, but walked the next batter and was pulled from the mound in favor of junior Riley Cooper.
Cooper held the Cougars scoreless in the fifth and sixth innings, which was enough time to get the Bearkats offense going. Cougar starter Carter Henry pitched five scoreless innings, but with two outs in the sixth junior first baseman Blake Chisolm blasted a home run to left center field to tie the game at two. Sophomore outfielder Hunter Hearn reached base for the Bearkats on the next at-bat on an infield single, which signaled the end of Henry’s evening. Henry was relieved by junior left hander Seth Romero, who struck out senior catcher Robbie Rojas to end the inning. Junior Dakota Mills came in and pitched a scoreless seventh for the Bearkats to keep the score tied 2-2.
“I was sitting dead red fastball,” Chisolm said. “He happened to give it to me, I saw it well and put a good swing on it, and it just kind of went.”
In the bottom of the seventh, junior center fielder Bryce Johnson started the inning with a double to right field, and stole third base on the next pitch. On the following pitch, senior second baseman Taylor Beene laid down a sacrifice bunt to bring home Johnson, giving the Bearkats a 3-2 lead.
“I love those aggressive plays, and coach Deggs loves it too,” Johnson said. “But yea, Beene is our go to guy when the squeeze comes. He’s the man. He’s the guy who can get it down.”
Freshman left hander Dominic Robinson worked a scoreless eighth inning. After a scoreless bottom of the eighth inning, Robinson stayed on to pitch the ninth and go for the save. However, the ninth inning did not come without drama for Robinson. He hit the first batter of the inning. The game ended on a double play lineout to Beene who threw to Fregia at second to end the game, clinching a sweep of the Cougars.
After clinching the series sweep of the Sanders Cup there is no time to rest for the Bearkats as they travel to Hammond, La. to take on the Southeastern Louisiana Lions in what will be a rematch of last year’s Southland Conference tournament title game. The two teams will play a three-game series starting May 5.
Friday’s first pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Alumni Field.