HUNTSVILLE – Clayton Harp hit a go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to surge the No. 22 Sam Houston State Bearkats past Dallas Baptist, 6-5, to square up the weekend series on Saturday afternoon at Don Sanders Stadium.
The Bearkats (17-6) led for the first five innings on Saturday before a three-run homer by Devlin Granberg with two outs in the top of the seventh gave the Patriots (12-9) a 5-4 lead. The DBU pitching staff would throw up a pair of zeros until the eighth when Harp connected for his second home run of the season, and the second homer of the day for the Kats, to retake the lead.
It was Harp’s only hit of the day in just two at-bats, while both Blake Chisolm and Ben Haefner each finished 3-for-4 at the plate. Chisolm managed to carry over Friday’s big night that saw him hit a pair of two-run homers in his final two at-bats of the game with hits in his first three times up on Saturday, including another two-run homer in the first inning.
Nick Mikolajchak earned his third win of the season with 3.0 innings of relief, allowing three runs – none earned – on just two hits in that span. Riley Gossett struck out three and allowed a pair of runs in 4.1 innings of his start and Seth Ballew got a pair of key outs in working out of the fifth inning.
Dakota Mills allowed a hit and just his second walk of the season, but still managed to punch out two and put up a zero in the ninth to convert his fifth save of the year in five chances.
For DBU, the Patriots got six of their nine hits in the game from the top third of their order with three hits and three RBI coming from Granberg. Starting pitcher Kody Funderburk struck out five in 4.1 innings, but allowed four runs, while reliever Sean Boyle took the loss after surrendering Harp’s homer in the eighth.
The Kats will look to finish out its series with the Patriots on Sunday afternoon. First pitch is set for 1:00 p.m. at Don Sanders Stadium and can be heard on KSHU 90.5 FM. Left-hander Gabriel Sequeira is set to get the ball for the Bearkats against a DBU starter to be determined.
Sam Houston scored four runs with two outs in the game, the first coming in the opening inning. After Funderburk had retired each of the first two men he saw, Andrew Fregia singled into center field to bring up Chisolm. The Bearkat designated hitter, who had launched two-run homers to left field in his final two at-bats on Friday, then jumped on a 1-0 pitch and did the same thing, homering to left field to put the Kats up 2-0.
Gossett put a pair of goose eggs on the board in the first two innings, but was not so fortunate in the third. Each of the first three Patriots of the inning attacked the first pitch they saw with Jameson Hannah and Granberg each hitting safely to open the frame, putting runners on second and third for Matt Duce. The Patriot catcher then sent a sacrifice fly to center field to score Hannah and cut the lead to 2-1, but Gossett was able to retire each of the next two DBU hitters to keep the Kats in front.
An inning later the Patriots evened it up, doing their damage with a two-out rally that started on a single into left field by Luke Bandy. Blayne Jones then followed with a double down the left-field line that found its way into the corner, allowing Bandy to score all the way from first to even it up at 2-2.
The Kats would answer, however, in similar fashion with a two-out run of their own. After a leadoff single from Chisolm, Jack Rogers was hit by a pitch to push Chisolm into scoring position. Funderburk would get Bearkat outfielder Josh Biles to fly out, but could not get past Haefner who singled into left field for the first of his three hits on the day, scoring Chisolm to put Sam Houston back in front 3-2.
Ballew kept the Kats in front in the fifth, entering in relief and getting a double play off the bat of Funderburk in a bases-loaded situation to end the rally. Sam Houston tacked on another run in the bottom half of the inning when a DBU error and a Chisolm double put two runners in scoring position. Reliever Kragen Kechely managed a key strikeout of Cross Austin with less than two outs, but then uncorked a wild pitch that upped the Bearkat lead to 4-2 as Fregia came across to score.
The lead did not last past the sixth, however, as DBU got a big swing from Granberg to in front for the first time on the day. Mikolajchak entered to start the inning and got the first two hitters he saw, but the third Bearkat error of the day kept the inning going. Hannah extended it further with a single to put a pair on for Granberg and the DBU first baseman tagged a 1-0 pitch out to left center field to plate three runs, putting DBU up 5-4.
Sam Houston got a single in the sixth, but nothing else before going down in order in the seventh. But an inning later they got the rally they needed. With Boyle in for his first inning of work, Jaxxon Grisham opened it up by drawing a walk in his only plate appearance of the game. The Bearkats were unable to bunt him into scoring position, but it was no matter as Harp would connect on an 0-1 pitch for a two-run homer to right field that vaulted Sam Houston back to a 6-5 advantage.
That swing brought on Mills in the ninth and the Bearkat closer did his job. He opened the inning with a strikeout of Hannah, and after a walk to Granberg, also got Duce on strikes. Tim Millard gave the Patriots life with a flared single into center field; however, Mills was able to get Evan Sandmann to foul out to Haefner near third base for the game’s final out.
Coach Matt Deggs on Saturday’s win …
"I thought it was a heavyweight fight again. Those guys (DBU) are really tough and they can really pitch it and swing it. Everybody can see that if you make a mistake they are going to tax it. We are not playing real well right now but these kids have a lot of heart and they keep finding a way. I equate it to landing an airplane: I don't care how you land it as long as you land it and we all walk out of it."
Coach Deggs on the eighth inning ...
"We are really dangerous at the plate and if you look at it you can see that we (SHSU & DBU) have two similar offenses. The pitcher coming in at the end has great numbers and just left a fastball over the plate and Clayton Harp did what he was supposed to do. Harp has a lot of talent and he is very dangerous."
Coach Deggs on four runs on two-out at bats ...
"That has been who we are the past three years. Those will knock the wind out of you and they did it to us a couple of times. Once you think you are off the field the two-out knocks hit you and then you are still playing it out. Teams that have the heart to score with two outs are very dangerous."
Clayton Harp on the home run in the bottom of the eighth ...
"I was just looking to get something early over the plate and he got ahead with a slider. I saw that pitch and I knew he was not going to beat me with that pitch so I was getting ready for the fastball. I knew I was on time with it and fortunately I got on the fastball over the plate."
Blake Chisolm on the offensive production ...
"I think we are seeing the ball really well and we are having a good approach with it. We are working as a team to get into deep counts against pitchers and putting ourselves in good positions to really set us up for success."