HUNTSVILLE – Twenty-third ranked Sam Houston State churned out a two-run ninth, sending Saturday’s middle game against Nevada into extra innings but it would not be enough.
The Bearkats fell 5-4 in 10 innings as the Wolf Pack recorded three-straight, two-out singles in the frame in the eventual win. The squads return to action on Sunday at 1 p.m. from Don Sanders Stadium for the final game and rubber match of the series.
Nevada’s (1-1) Mark Nowaczewski tossed seven innings, allowing four hits and two runs with none earned. Meanwhile, Sam Houston (1-1) left-handed starter Seth Ballew made his Bearkat debut after sitting out a season ago due to Tommy John surgery. The redshirt sophomore allowed three hits and two runs while fanning four and walking another in five innings.
The loss snapped Sam Houston’s 11-game home-winning streak, which dated to April 22 last season. The Kats will look to keep another streak alive Sunday. The Bearkats have won 15 straight home three-game series with the last series loss coming March 28-30, 2014 against Northwestern State.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sam Houston trailed 4-2 entering the ninth, having seen 17-of-18 hitters retired after taking a 2-1 lead in the third. Riley McKnight began the frame with a four-pitch walk and advanced to second on a Bryce Johnson first-pitch single up the middle.
Lance Miles then reached on a fielder’s choice as the Pack were unsuccessful in turning the twin killing, placing runners on first and third with one out. Jaxxon Grisham battled through a six-pitch at-bat, eventually belting a deep fly to right, scoring McKnight.
Then, with two down, Robie Rojas provided some clutch hitting, hitting a slow dribbler to shortstop, allowing the senior to beat the throw, which sailed high, allowing pinch-runner Mac Odom the ability to come around and score, knotting the game at 4-4.
The lead would be short lived as the Wolf Pack responded in the 10th using three straight singles including a Grant Finnel liner through the ride side to plate the eventual winning run. Taylor Beene added a one-out single in the bottom half but an Andrew Fregia rocket off the bat was stabbed by pitcher Evan McMahan who turned the game-ending double play.
For a second straight day, Sam Houston manufactured a run to take an early lead. Making the start in the two-hole, Riley McKnight fought off a 2-1 count to single up the middle. One pitcher later, Bryce Johnson showcased his speed, beating the throw for a bunt hit.
With the hit-and-run on, Lance Miles was successful in extending out to hit a dribbler to the right side, moving the runners over. Then, on the fifth pitch, Jaxxon Grisham hit a roller to shortstop, forcing a quick handle that was fumbled, allowing McKnight to race home on the error.
After limited success against left-handed pitcher Seth Ballew, Nevada’s Keaton Smith made the redshirt sophomore pay on a hanging breaking ball. The nine-hole hitter drove one out to left field for the first homer of the series, to tie the game at 1-1.
Sam Houston responded immediately, as Andrew Fregia reached on a single to left and let his speed do the rest. The sophomore swiped second and raced all the way around to score as the ball skipped away into center field, allowing Sam Houston to re-take the lead at 2-1.
The back-and-forth continued in the fifth as Nevada capitalized on a leadoff four-pitch walk to Tyler Flores. The freshman moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and would come home to score as Smith continued his assault, lining a sharply hit single to deep shortstop to tie the game at 2-2.
Ballew exited after the fifth and the Wolf Pack provided left-handed reliever Dominic Robinson with a rude welcoming. Nevada drilled three straight hits including Cole Krzmarzick’s two-run home run to left field, providing the Pack a 4-2 edge.
Right-handed reliever Jordan Cannon came in and settled things down but Nevada threatened for more in the eighth, putting runners on the corners thanks to a first-pitch one-out single and a walk but the Kats turned to freshman Gabriel Sequeira who fanned the inning’s final hitter to escape the jam.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Sam Houston’s Robie Rojas and Bryce Johnson each finished with a pair of hits, going 2-of-4 and 2-of-3 at the plate respectively. Five different Bearkats contributed hits with one a piece from Andrew Fregia, Riley McKnight and Taylor Beene.
NEW FACES MAKE DEBUTS ON THE MOUND
After starting pitcher Seth Ballew exited, six of Sam Houston’s final seven pitchers – including five freshmen – came on to make their Sam Houston debuts. Gabriel Sequiera provided the biggest boost, tossing two no-hit innings while Kyle Backhus entered with runners on the corners in the eighth, striking out Nevada pinch-hitter Mike Echavia to end the threat.
Head coach Matt Deggs on the loss…
“It was a hard-fought game. If we’re anything less than our best in this schedule this kind of stuff will happen. I didn’t manage the game very well today. That loss is on me. I probably over managed at times. I thought we saw some good and not-so-good from the bullpen. Gabe Sequiera was outstanding. These guys have a short memory. We’ll be right back at it tomorrow.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the bullpen…
“We started matching up. We’ve got a lot of options. At the end of the day, if we’re going to be successful, our bullpen is going to be a huge part of that. We have the ability to match up.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the ninth-inning comeback…
“I really thought we’d win the game. You can bunt there, which is what the book says to do, but we have a lot of faith in Lance Miles and a lot of faith in all our hitters. I didn’t want to give up the out. I really thought we would win the game right there. It didn’t work out. Tomorrow is a new day.”
Center fielder Bryce Johnson on the ninth-inning comeback…
“Me and Riley (McKnight) are at the top so our job is to get on base and make something happen. The next thing you know, Lance gets him over to third. We just battled. Mac (Odom) came in and pinch ran. Everyone has a job on this team. He scored from first and we just kept going.”
Catcher Robie Rojas on the pitching performance…
“Seth came out and threw the ball really well. It was his first time out in two years because of Tommy John surgery. Gabriel Sequeira pitched a heck of a game. We just have to respond tomorrow.”