HUNTSVILLE – The No. 22 Sam Houston State Bearkats erased a six-run deficit, but Dallas Baptist rallied for three runs in the top of the 10th inning to pull out a 9-7 win in the opener of a three-game series on Friday night at Don Sanders Stadium.
Sam Houston (16-6) trailed 6-0 after just three innings, but got to Patriot (12-8) starter MD Johnson for four runs in the sixth and seventh innings before Blake Chisolm’s second two-run homer of the night tied things up in the bottom of the ninth.
But Sam Houston committed its only two errors of the night with two outs in the top of the 10th, leading to three unearned DBU runs. The Kats would push one across in the bottom half of the inning and bring the tying run to the plate before Parker Towns managed to close it out for the Patriots.
The loss spoiled a stellar outing from reliever Riley Cooper who struck out a career-high seven batters in 4.1 innings of relief. The Kats used four homers to get back in the game, starting with solo jacks from both Andrew Fregia and Hunter Hearn before consecutive two-run shots from Chisolm in the seventh and ninth forced things into extra innings.
Johnson had it on cruise control into the sixth for DBU before eventually being lifted after a career-long 7.1 innings on the hill. The big right-hander struck out eight and walked just one before being lifted for Jarrod Bayless who retired six of the first seven hitters he saw before the Bearkats’ ninth-inning rally.
Macgregor Hines was the winning pitcher in relief, striking out one in 1.1 innings before Towns needed just one pitch in the 10th to pick up his second save of the year.
The Kats will look to square the series with the Patriots in a Saturday matinee. First pitch is set for 1:00 p.m. at Don Sanders Stadium and will be aired on ESPN3. Right-hander Riley Gossett is set to get the ball for the Bearkats against DBU lefty Kody Funderburk.
DBU wasted no time staking Johnson to an early lead as just three batters into the game Matt Duce took advantage of a strong wind blowing out to left field, smashing a two-run homer out of the park off of Bearkat starter Hayden Wesneski.
An inning later the Patriots added on to their advantage on the strength of a homer from leadoff man Jameson Hannah. A walk to Funderburk and a single from Jimmy Glowenke got things going and put two runners on with one out for Hannah who blasted a 1-1 pitch out to right-center field, his third homer of the year, to make it a 5-0 Patriot lead.
The Patriots did not stop there, pushing across another tally in the third against Wesneski. Tim Millard reached base via a one-out hit-by-pitch and after a single by Evan Sandmann, Funderburk lined a double into the right-field corner that brought him around to push the lead to 6-0 after just three frames.
The Kats managed a couple of singles off of Johnson in both the third and fourth innings before finally getting on the board in the sixth. The Patriot starter got each of the first two outs of the inning before running into Fregia who launched a solo homer off the left-center field scoreboard to get the Kats on the board.
Things got even more interesting in the seventh, starting one batter in when Hearn connected on an 0-2 pitch for a leadoff homer that cut the lead to 6-2. Two batters later Johnson issued his first walk of the night to Jordan Cannon and two pitches later Chisolm made him pay, homering to left-center field to surge the Kats back in the game at 6-4.
In the meantime, relievers Dominic Robinson and Cooper did their job to keep the Patriots at bay. Cooper retired each of the first nine hitters he faced and got the Kats into the ninth where they would mount another rally to force extra frames. After DBU reliever Jarod Bayless had struck out the side in the ninth, he gave the Kats a chance when he hit Cannon with a 1-1 pitch to bring the tying run to the plate. Chisolm then attacked the first pitch he saw and sailed it out to left field for a two-run shot that knotted things up at 6-6.
Cooper remained in control in the 10th, retiring the first two Patriots of the inning before Garrett Wolforth drew a 2-out walk. Sam Houston then committed its first error of the game when a throw from Chase Cryer off the bat of Blayne Jones went wild at first base, and one batter later Chisolm could not handle a grounder from Hannah that allowed the go-ahead run to cross. One batter later Devlin Granberg blooped a single into right field, just in front of a charging Hearn that plated two more and gave DBU a 9-6 advantage with three outs to go.
The Kats were not done, however, and mounted one final comeback in the 10th. Trey Ochoa opened the inning with his second single of the day and three batters later the Patriots returned the favor when Millard misfired a throw to first off the bat of Hearn that scored Ochoa and brought the tying run to the plate. The Patriots then turned to Towns out of the pen and he needed just one pitch to end things, getting Bearkat designated hitter Jacob Finke to fly out to left.
Matt Deggs on the 9-7 loss to Dallas Baptist…
“It was one of those days, ya know. There was really a big wind blowing out of here and they (DBU) are one of the best hitting teams in the country. Both teams are really offensive. They threw a haymaker right off the bat and connected, but I’m really proud of our guys. We really proved that we don’t have a glass jaw and got back up off the mat and started punching back. Their starter did a great job and set a great tone for them. We were really just able to battle, battle, battle and then finally deliver the big blow. And that was only because of the work that Dominic (Robinson) and Riley (Cooper) did out of the bullpen. I couldn’t be more proud of those guys.”
Deggs on the competition between the teams …
“I thought it was a great battle. Both sides played their hearts out. Hate the way we lost it at the end, but you can’t ever pin it on one thing. So, this will be a great series all weekend. It’s going to be a good battle for us. I’m really proud of the way we after it today and responded, and that is what you are looking for. A lot of teams roll over there and this team got back up and kept going, and that’s what we’ve seen out of them for three years.”
Deggs on the job Riley Cooper did out of the bullpen …
“Riley is really effective against great bat speed and those guys have great bat speed. We knew after the first inning we saw that he could be a problem for those guys, and he was just able to throw up zero, zero, zero and let us start scoring. I hate that we didn’t finish it, but I’m proud of the way we battled.”
Deggs on finally getting on the board and the comeback …
“I thought we had some good passes before Fregia’s homer, but that was a big blow. Especially with two outs to get us on the scoreboard, and especially after a baserunning mistake the inning before. We kind of took off from there, but I’m just proud of the fact that they didn’t knock us out. We got back up and kept coming and then got into our game. Riley held them from there and we had a chance to finish it, we just didn’t get it done.”