BATON ROUGE, La. -- Sam Houston State jumped all over LSU with five runs in the first inning but couldn’t put any more on the board as the Tigers rallied with four runs in the eighth to win, 8-5. The loss drops the Bearkats into an elimination game against Louisiana-Lafayette at 2:05 p.m. Sunday at Alex Box Stadium.
The Bearkats (38-21) caused major problems in the first inning for the SEC’s pitcher of the year Aaron Nola and the LSU defense. Three hits and three errors allowed the Kats to score five runs in the opening frame. Nola hadn’t allowed more than two runs in a game since March 15 against Mississippi State.
First baseman Jessie Plumlee reached base on an error by third baseman Christian Ibarra to lead things off. He moved to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a groundout by center fielder Colt Atwood. Catcher Anthony Azar then hit a chopper that was bobbled by the shortstop for the second error of the inning. Plumlee would have scored regardless of the error.
Third baseman Kevin Miller ripped a double to the gap in left center that moved Azar to third base. Right fielder Ryan O’Hearn hit a sacrifice fly in foul territory to plate Azar. Left fielder Luke Plucheck then ripped a grounder that went between the third baseman’s legs for the third LSU error.
Shortstop Carter Burgess kept the inning going by smashing a double down the left field line to score Plucheck. After designated hitter Hayden Simerly walked second baseman Ryan Farney dumped a single into right field to score Burgess and complete the five-run barrage and make the score 5-1.
“We know LSU is one of the best teams in the nation, if not the best,” said Miller. “Any chance we got to go up on them we had to take advantage of them. They made a couple mistakes and we came back and hit them in the mouth. But we knew they weren’t going to lay down and they were going to fight back.”
Nola would rebound to pitch seven innings and register his 11th win of the season. The sophomore righty allowed only three hits from the second through seventh innings.
LSU scored a run in the first inning after a bases loaded walk from starter Caleb Smith. The junior lefthander struggled through just 2 2/3 innings of work. He allowed six hits and walked four while giving up four runs.
Smith worked himself into another bases-loaded jam in the second and third innings. The Tigers scored two runs in the second and one in the third to cut the Bearkats lead to 5-4.
Jason Simms relieved Smith with two outs in the third inning and got a strikeout to end the threat. Simms was outstanding for 3 2/3 innings. The junior gave up just two hits and one walk.
“The plan was to go in the game and fill up the zone a little bit,” Simms said. “We had a pretty tight zone. We wanted to fill up the zone and let the defense work. We made some good plays on the ground balls. Overall we just wanted to let the defense work and make some plays.”
Alan Scott pitched in relief for the second straight night. The sophomore got the last two outs of the seventh inning before struggling in the eighth. After a groundout to start the inning, Scott gave up a single and a walk before an error on Burgess at short tied the game, 5-5. Scott hit a batter to load the bases and was replaced by Michael Burchett.
Burchett allowed a run on a wild pitch to the first batter he faced. An RBI single made the score 7-5 and ended Burchett’s outing without recording an out. Andrew Godail replaced Burchett and got a strikeout before issuing a bases loaded walk to make the LSU lead 8-5. The sophomore lefty would get out of the inning with a strikeout.
Sam Houston was unable to get much going off of LSU closer Chris Cotton. The lefty gave up just one hit and one walk but struck out three.
The Kats will have a rematch with Louisiana-Lafayette Sunday at 2 p.m. for the chance to get another crack at LSU at 7 p.m. SHSU topped ULL 4-2 Friday in the teams NCAA Regional opener.