By: Shelby Salkar/SHSU Athletics
HUNTSVILLE – Hunter Hearn blasted a game-tying home run in the fourth inning, but Rice scratched across two runs in the eighth to edge Sam Houston State, 5-3, on Tuesday at Don Sanders Stadium.
The three-run homer was Hearn’s first of the season and third of the sophomore’s career and knotted the game at three-all after the Owls jumped ahead in the early frames.
Sam Houston (17-8) ran into trouble in the eighth but appeared to have what it took to escape the jam. Rice led off the inning with consecutive singles but reliever Kyle Backhus buckled down, striking out Dominic Dicaprio.
Then, Ford Proctor, who belted a pair of homers in the game, hit a chopper back to Backhus. The freshman turned to second for the force out but the Kats could not make the relay to first for the inning-ending twin killing. Darryn Sheppard made Sam Houston pay, fighting off a 1-2 pitch for a single into shallow left, send both runners home.
Backhus (1-2) drew the hard-luck loss, allowing three hits and the two runs in 2 2-3 innings while striking out four without allowing a walk. Sam Houston starter Dakota Mills took the no decision, scattering seven hits while allowing three runs (two earned) while striking out six without a walk.
Sam Houston begins a four-game road trip on Friday, resuming Southland Conference play with a visit to Abilene Christian. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. The squads will play again Saturday at 2 p.m. before closing out the set on Sunday at 1 p.m.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Rice (8-19) took the lead in the second as Proctor lifted a solo homer into left to begin the scoring. After Charlie Warren reached on a dribbler through the legs of Hearn at first, the Owls capitalized, scoring their second run on a double to right field.
Proctor took Mills deep again an inning later, marking the first multi-homer game the junior has permitted. The cleanup hitter entered the game with only one homer but helped the Owls to an early three-run lead.
The Kats looked to answer the bottom half as Taylor Beene torpedoed a single through the right side to lead off the frame. A Riley McKnight bunt and Bryce Johnson groundout moved the senior to third before a strikeout halted the threat.
Sam Houston put two aboard in the fourth on Andrew Fregia’s second single of the night and a Blake Chisolm walk setting the stage for Hearn who lifted a ball that carried just enough, clearing the left-field wall to knot the game at 3-3.
Mills responded with a shutdown frame and kept the Owls at bay through six. Behind the plate, Robie Rojas extended his dominance of the bases, throwing out a pair of runners. The senior has caught nine strealing this season and 39 since coming to Sam Houston a season ago.
The Kats entered the bottom half of the eighth looking to rebound following the two-out, two-run eighth inning single to put the Owls ahead. Clayton Harp lined a single into center but a double-play ball came back to hurt.
Fregia and Chisolm each reached with two-out walks but the Owls turned to reliever Glenn Otto. With Rojas at the plate and Mike Williams on to pinch run at first, the Kats attempted the double steal but catcher Dominic DiCaprio was up to the task, throwing out Williams at second, helping Otto secure his third save.
Opening thoughts from head coach Matt Deggs…
“We didn’t play very well and we didn’t coach very well. We got out-played and out-coached tonight. Their scoring started with an error and they won on us not completing a double play. We have to work to get better.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the readiness of the squad…
“I have to have them ready to play and obviously, it didn’t look like we were ready to get after it. We pitched it well but when we don’t execute routine plays we can’t expect to beat too many people. It’s on me, I have to have them ready to play. I didn’t like their intensity tonight at the plate and in the field."
Head coach Matt Deggs on turning the page…
“We have to brush it off and have a good practice tomorrow and in Abilene this weekend to start conference again. Ultimately, though, if you want to do something good this year you have to win on Tuesday nights.”