CONWAY, Ark. -- Tyler Eppler allowed just one run over seven innings of work but was the tough-luck loser as Sam Houston State was shut out for the first time this season, in a 1-0 loss to Southeastern Louisiana. The loss means that Sam Houston will have to play Northwestern State in an elimination game Friday at 9 a.m.
The Bearkats (41-16) didn’t lack scoring opportunities as they left 11 runners on base and twice left the bases loaded. The shut out of Sam Houston is the first since March 29, 2013, on the road at SFA. It is also SHSU's first loss to a Southland opponent since April 19 at Lamar.
Tyler Eppler allowed nine hits over the seven innings but it was a single run in the fifth inning that gave the Lions the victory. All of the damage was done by three two-out singles by the top of the Lion batting order. The league’s newcomer of the year Andrew Godbold drove in the run with a single that fell just in front of right fielder Travis Lee.
“They pitched well but we didn’t get a clutch hit in the moment of truth when we needed it,” head coach David Pierce said. “I thought both teams played well and both teams pitched well but we just didn’t get the clutch hits.”
The Kats had two on and one out in the second inning after first baseman Ryan O’Hearn and shortstop Corey Toups each singled, but Southeastern pitcher Tate Scioneaux managed to pitch out of the jam.
SHSU starter Tyler Eppler had to work out of a jam in the bottom of the third. With two runners on base and just one out, Eppler retired Southeastern Louisiana’s leading hitters Jameson Fisher and Godbold.
“I thought I pitched really well,” Eppler said. “I didn’t have my best off-speed today but I got by with my fastball and changeup. The biggest thing was that I slipped up in one inning. That’s a rough one to lose.”
Center fielder Colt Atwood smacked a double into center field in the fifth for the Kats’ first extra-base hit. He was nearly able to come around when designated hitter Hayden Simerly hit a liner to center. The Lion center fielder stumbled but was able to recover and make the catch from his knees to end the inning.
Sam Houston looked like they might answer SLU’s run in the top of the sixth when they loaded the bases. Catcher Anthony Azar and first baseman Ryan O’Hearn each singled to start the frame. After a failed sacrifice attempt and a fly out to center, second baseman Shea Pierce was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Southeastern Louisiana went to the bullpen and reliever Jason Greenleaf struck out left fielder Luke Plucheck to end the threat.
SHSU had another golden opportunity in the eighth inning after O’Hearn worked a one-out walk and Burgess doubled down the right field line. The Lions called upon closer Mason Klotz who was able to retire both Toups and Pierce to end the threat.
O’Hearn was 2-for-3 with a walk and was the only Bearkat with multiple hits in the game.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” O’Hearn said. “Obviously you need guys that are going to drive in runs but today we had the bases loaded in a few different places and it just didn’t happen for us. I thought Tyler pitched as good as I’ve ever seen him.”
Alan Scott pitched one scoreless inning of relief to keep the Kats in the game.
SHSU had a base runner in the ninth when pinch hitter Dirk Masters worked a one-out walk. Wyatt Powell pinch ran but was stranded at first.
The Bearkats will be looking for a little revenge Friday morning as Northwestern State took two-of-three games from SHSU in Huntsville in March. The Demons were the only team to take a series from the Kats at Don Sanders Stadium.