HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats put together a complete performance and avenged a loss to Houston on Tuesday with an 8-3 win over the Cougars on Wednesday night at Don Sanders Stadium.
The win evened the season series with the Cougars (22-15) in the annual battle for the Don Sanders Cup with the finale of the series coming on May 1 at Constellation Field in Sugar Land.
Chase Cryer drove in three runs and Brad Demco turned in 3.2 scoreless innings of relief for his second win of the year on Wednesday for the Bearkats (26-12). Sam Houston got to UH starter Fred Villareal for three runs in the opening inning and tacked on two more in the third and three more in the middle innings in a game that saw the Kats rack up 11 hits and take advantage of six free passes from Cougar pitchers.
Villareal took the loss for Houston, allowing three runs in the opening inning before relinquishing things to the bullpen. Sam Houston then got to each of the next two relievers for five more runs before Nolan Bond tossed 2.2 scoreless frames to finish out the game.
Meanwhile, the Bearkats used four pitchers of their own with Demco doing yeoman’s work during his time on the mound. He allowed just two hits in his outing and struck out three, but none bigger than when he entered in the fourth inning with the bases loaded and struck out both Jared Triolo and Lael Lockhart to keep the score at 5-2.
His night came in relief of starter Gabriel Sequeira who struck out a pair and allowed a pair of runs in 3.1 innings. Riley Cooper also got in 0.2 innings of work while Dakota Mils got the final four outs of the game.
Cryer led the way at the plate with a pair of hits, driving in a run in each of his first two at-bats before adding a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Hunter Hearn reached all five times he came to the plate, scoring three runs and driving in a run on a pair of singles. Andrew Fregia tripled and scored twice, as did Clayton Harp who added two hits and an RBI to his night as well.
The Bearkats will open up a key Southland Conference series on Friday night at The Don when they host Central Arkansas at 6:30 p.m. in a game set to be aired on ESPN+.
The Cougars got out to a quick 1-0 lead on an RBI double by Joe Davis in the opening inning, but Sam Houston wasted no time getting to Villareal in the bottom half of the frame. Fregia’s triple to the left-center field wall started it all off and then Blake Chisolm evened things up with a sacrifice fly to left. A walk and a hit batter then brought up Cryer and the Bearkat second baseman picked up an RBI on an infield hit with Villareal’s throw to first going astray to send home another Bearkat on the play and give Sam a 3-1 lead.
Hearn’s second walk of the night and a bunt single by Harp put the Kats in position to add to the lead in the third, and Cryer took advantage with an RBI single to right field with one out to push the lead to 4-1. Two batters later Jordan Cannon picked up his first RBI of the night, scoring Cryer with a double.
Three straight singles by Cougar hitters got them back on the board against Sequeira in the fourth, cutting the lead to 5-2 on an RBI from Tucker Redden. A wild pitch and a walk to Connor Hollis then loaded the bases with one away and prompted the Kats to go to the pen for Demco. The lefty immediately went to work, needing just eight total pitches to punch out both Triolo and Lockhart to leave the sacks loaded and kill what was the last real threat of the night by the Cougars.
The Kats got one more back on the board on an RBI single from Hearn in the fourth and then went to work again in the sixth against reliever Hunter Edwards. A single by Fregia was followed by another walk to Hearn before Chisolm was hit by a pitch to load the sacks. Harp then picked up an RBI on a bases-loaded walk and Cryer followed that up with a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Hearn to make it a commanding 8-2 lead.
Coach Matt Deggs on how the pitching shaped out in the game …
“It all begins and ends with pitching, and I thought we got a real good performance out of Gabe (Sequeira) who went and filled up the strike zone and made them do a good job of putting the ball in play and string hits together. Then I thought it was a really good job by (Brad) Demco coming in. If we had to name an MVP of the game it’s probably Brad Demco. He did a great job of settling things down in the middle. Cooper was able to then come in and get the lefty and we were able to hand it off to Dakota.”
Deggs on the game as a whole …
“We probably played as good of baseball as we’ve played in a long while tonight. I thought we were very tenacious offensively and played just a good, rock-solid, old-school brand of baseball. It was really good to see.”
Deggs on the Kats bouncing back after Tuesday’s loss …
“It was good to see. We haven’t played real well, or played together really well lately. We had great early work today. Guys came out in a great frame of mind and it was good to see us punch back today.”
Deggs on the quick turnaround to UCA this weekend …
“That’s our cup of tea. These kids wish they played every day and the coaches are the same way. Tomorrow we’ll get a good practice in and get ready for a really, really good UCA team.”
Deggs on what UCA has to offer this weekend …
“They can pitch it. They have a couple of really good arms, front-line guys who are as good as there are in the league. We’ll have our work cut out for us. But if we dominate the strike zone like we did tonight on both sides of things and continue to make routine plays, and get the timely hits an execute, then I like where we are at.”