WACO – In less than three hours on Tuesday night, Sam Houston State played what turned into a tale of two games against Baylor. It may have counted for just one victory, but the RPI boost will go much farther.
Sam Houston defeated Baylor, 7-4, overcoming a two-run deficit in the seventh after dominating much of the early innings defensively and on the mound. The Bearkats are expected to make a major jump in the RPI after knocking off a Bears team listed as the No. 9 team nationally entering the evening.
The Kats (24-9) fell behind thanks to a four-run Baylor sixth but responded in the seventh, drawing four walks, including three with the bases loaded off a pair of Bears (20-13) relievers, to re-take the lead before adding an insurance run on a Lance Miles RBI single in the eighth and Clayton Harp two-out homer in the ninth.
Making his first collegiate start, Dominic Robinson tossed 5 1-3 innings, scattering nine hits while working around Baylor baserunners in each of his frames. The left-handed freshman allowed two runs, both after he exited, while fanning four without allowing a walk.
Kyle Backhus (2-2) picked up the victory, showing strong poise on the mound after a pair of defensive miscues led for four Baylor runs in the sixth. The freshman set down three of four hitters faced including stranding a runner at third with an inning-ending strikeout.
Nick Mikolajchak, who entered the night second in the Southland Conference for saves, picked up his sixth, setting down three-straight in the ninth to follow up two smooth hitless innings from Colin Cameron.
The win was the fifth-straight for the program in Waco and evened the two-game season series with Baylor. Sam Houston continues its nine-game road trip on Thursday, making the quick turnaround with a 3 p.m. tilt at Stephen F. Austin. The Bearkats have won 17-consecutive Southland Conference games, setting a new league record, including a 12-0 start this season.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sam Houston set the tone in the first as Bryce Johnson shot a leadoff single up the middle and took third when Andrew Fregia belted a double to the warning track in center for his seventh two-bagger and third career in as many games against Baylor.
Harp brought home the game’s first run, sending a groundout to the right side, matching Fregia with the team lead on his 28th RBI of the season. Hunter Hearn followed, sending a ball into right center for the sacrifice hit, providing the Bearkats a 2-0 lead.
The Bearkats were stingy defensively, turning a 1-6-3 double play in the first inning to erase a leadoff single. Two innings later, after another leadoff single and sacrifice bunt, Miles caught Josh Bisonette off second, courtesy of the hidden-ball trick, applying the tag for the out.
Baylor struck for two more hits in the fourth, moving their total to seven on the game but Sam Houston again escaped. With Kameron Esthay on first following a leadoff single, Aaron Dodson tagged a ball into left center. The Bears sent Esthay home but the 7-6-2 relay connected as catcher Robie Rojas made the tag with ease, cutting down the man at the plate.
Sam Houston escaped a runners-on-the-corners, two-out jam in the fifth after a bloop double fell in left and error followed but could not do the same in the sixth. Baylor chased Robinson from the game on a one-out single and double down the right-field line.
The Bearkats turned to Hayden Wesneski, making his second relief appearance, but a wild pitch put the Bears on the board and a four-pitch free pass sent Sam Houston back to the bullpen. Backhus entered, inducing a groundout, which tied the game, but the real damage occurred on some miscommunication on a ball in shallow right, resulting in an error and two runs for a 4-2 Baylor lead.
Sam Houston did not flinch, responding for three runs to re-take the lead in the seventh. Rojas led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a Miles single. Taylor Beene reached on a misplay at third, loading the bases.
Patience at the plate led to three runs as Johnson and Fregia worked RBI walks with one out and Hunter Hearn drew the free pass RBI with two down for a 5-4, Sam Houston advantage. One inning later, Miles produced his second hit in as many innings, singling home Rojas. Harp, the hero from a year ago with two down in the ninth, again came up big in the same situation, delivering a two-out solo homer to right.
Head coach Matt Deggs on the RPI booster…
“It was a huge night for us as a ballclub. Our RPI had dropped. That’s something that’s important to us. This was a big opportunity to come into face the No. 9 RPI ballclub and try to get a win. It starts with the guy on the mound. We run a freshman lefty out there that didn’t flinch or back up.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the performance from Dominic Robinson and the bullpen…
“We look up and he’s into the sixth inning. The biggest thing he did was he didn’t walk anybody. I was super proud of him. I thought we pitched the ball extremely well tonight. Backhus got back on the horse and had a big strikeout. I thought Colin Cameron and Miko out of the bullpen were outstanding tonight.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on responding after giving up the lead…
“We knew that we gifted it. It was pretty much business like (after). Guys came back in the dugout. We were able to work some really good at-bats and get on base. We got some key walks. I think basically on one hit we scratched three runs. It was great to see us respond. We knew that previous inning was uncharacteristic for us.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the tale of two games…
“It looked like we had a chance to spin the game from the get-go. Our approach got away from us a little bit. They were running different arms at us. Dom was throwing up zeroes and giving us a chance to score. Then, we have a sloppy inning, which is not who are. We got to start back over, down 4-2 and come back and win a game. There was a lot that went on tonight. I liked the way we handed ourselves. We didn’t try to do too much. That’s this group in a nutshell. They just stayed grinding.”