HUNTSVILLE – Less than twenty-four hours removed from Friday’s Southland Conference series opener, things looked eerily similar for Sam Houston State.
For the second-straight night, Sam Houston cashed in with two outs, this time, leading to a series-clinching 6-4 victory against Lamar at Don Sanders Stadium.
The Bearkats (10-5, 2-0 SLC) matched Friday’s hit total (13) and capitalized with timely hitting in the fifth inning, courtesy of eight hits, including six with two outs. Sam Houston will try for its second consecutive series sweep and first in league play against the Cardinals (8-7, 0-2 SLC) Sunday at 1 p.m.
Andrew Fregia and Robie Rojas led the charge, producing three hits apiece, including a solo homer from Fregia to re-take the lead in the fourth. The sophomore added the second of two spectacular defensive plays late in the game as part of an error-free night.
Rojas, along with Hunter Hearn, finished with a pair of RBIs, backing a steady start from Seth Ballew and a trio of strong performances out of the bullpen. Dakota Mills (2-1), the Bearkats Tuesday starter, entered out of the bullpen, earning the win, allowing two hits and three runs in 2 2-3 innings.
Kyle Backhus held Lamar in check, tossing 2 1-3 innings, permitting just one hit and a walk while fanning three, paving the way for reliever-turned-closer Nick Mikolajchak, who notched his third save, behind an inning of work while striking out one.
HOW IT HAPPENED
As was the case Friday, Sam Houston used the fifth inning to showcase its timely hitting. After scoring five runs in the frame a day earlier, the Kats tacked on four in the inning Saturday. Lamar seemed primed to escape having allowed just one run on a turned double-play, then the hits poured on.
Sam Houston tallied six two-out knocks, chasing Lamar starter Jace Campbell (1-1). With Brett Brown on to pitch, Blake Chisolm lined a ball to deep short, loading the bases for Rojas, who hit a ball in the same spot. Shortstop Payton Robertson tossed the ball to second but Chisolm was safe and another run scored.
Hunter Hearn followed, shooting a two-run single up the middle for a 6-1 advantage. In two days against the Cardinals, the Bearkats combined to score nine of their 15 runs in the fifth inning.
The cushion proved much needed as Lamar scored three runs in the sixth, as Trey Silvers deposited a home run over the left field wall after Reid Russell and Robin Adames reached. The homer trimmed the Sam Houston lead 6-4.
Sam Houston started the scoring in the second, using a single from Rojas through the right side to plate Fregia, who came around to score from first on a walk. Lamar knotted things up in the fourth, chasing Ballew from the game as the Cardinals loaded the bags.
The Kats turned to Mills, who induced a sac fly to center and a 6-4-3 double play, holding Lamar to just one run as the Cardinals stranded two in scoring position.
Three pitches into the fifth, Sam Houston re-gained the lead. Fregia drove a 2-0 pitch into left as the ball carried just out of the reach of a leaping Russell for a 2-1 advantage. The dinger was the sophomore’s team-leading third of the season and 11th of his career.
Head coach Matt Deggs’ opening thoughts on the win…
“Pitching and defense, man … that has been the name of our game. I thought Seth threw the ball a lot better. It was very encouraging. This might take a little bit but he spun the ball better tonight and set a good tone for us. I am real proud of Dakota Mills. We thought he might match up pretty good tonight. He came in and got us out of a huge spot. Sometimes a save is not in the ninth. Tonight, it was in the fourth. It could have gotten away pretty quick. I thought our defense was at another level tonight.”
Head coach Matt Deggs’ on the performance of Kyle Backhus…
“I thought it was real important for his development. Things got a little dicey. We had to go through the heart of their order, which is as good as it gets in this league. We could have gone to Miko and he could have gotten a four-out save. We wanted to stay with Backhus. He did a great job.”
Head coach Matt Deggs’ on the timely hitting against Lamar…
“We’re continuing to score with two outs. That’s the dagger. That’s what hurts. When you think you’re out of an inning and then you’re able to mount something, which we’ve done an incredible job of the last two days. Nobody probably pays attention or looks but Drew Fregia’s lead at first was gigantic because we don’t want any easy throws to second base to end the inning. Some of our speed and athleticism showed there and we were able to beat it out.”
Reliever Kyle Backhus on the Sam Houston victory…
“Any time our pitchers go out there, we have bodies flying everywhere. It makes it a lot easier on us to pitch efficiently and get outs. I came in right after Dakota and that was my guy to get. My job is to keep the game where it is and get to Miko.”
Third baseman Andrew Fregia on the defensive showing and timely hitting…
“Defense is definitely our number one priority. That’s just championship defense what we’re showing right now. I think everyone knows that’s what we’re capable of doing. We just stick with our approach. Two-out hits are huge. That will kill a team. It’s hard to do. You can tell it’s starting to come together.”