SUGAR LAND – The Sam Houston State Bearkats hit a pair of home runs and held on in the ninth for an 8-7 win over Houston to claim the Don Sanders Cup on Tuesday night at Constellation Field.
Andrew Fregia and Clayton Harp each drove in three runs, while Jack Rogers continued his torrid pace at the plate with a 3-for-5 night that included his second home run in as many games. The Kats (32-13) would finish with 12 hits on the night, but were 8-for-16 with runners on base in holding on for their sixth win over the Cougars (28-17) in their last seven tries dating back to 2016.
Brad Demco picked up his third win of the season as one of six pitchers that saw action in the game. He allowed a pair of unearned runs and punched out three in 1.1 innings on the mound in relief of starter Landon Ausley. The freshman tallied four of Sam Houston’s 14 strikeouts on the night in 3.1 innings of his second start of the season.
Sam Houston held an 8-5 lead entering the ninth after, but stopper Dakota Mills allowed four consecutive hits with two outs in the inning before registering his only strikeout of the game to close it out for his 12th save of the season.
Houston, meanwhile, finished with 11 hits including two apiece from Grayson Padgett and Cooper Coldiron. Lael Lockhart got the start for the second time this season against the Kats, but allowed a three-run homer to Fregia in the first inning before being lifted in the second. Nolan Bond took the loss after allowing a go-ahead, two-run homer to Rogers early in the fifth after the Cougars had tied it up in the top of the inning.
Sam Houston will now turn its attention to a key Southland Conference showdown this weekend when second-place Southeastern Louisiana comes to The Don. First pitch for Game 1 of the series is set for 6:30 p.m. on Friday evening.
After a scoreless inning from Ausley, the Sam Houston offense went straight to work against Lockhart. A walk to Eric Bohnert and a single by Rogers put the first two runners of the inning on for Fregia, and the Bearkat shortstop hammered a Lockhart pitch out to left field for a three-run homer to give the Kats a 3-0 advantage.
The Kats were able to leave five Cougars on base between the second and fourth innings, but were not so fortunate in the fifth. Houston collected just one hit in the inning, but pushed across three runs to knot things up. An error and a pair of walks loaded the sacks for Lockhart, who picked up an RBI on a free pass before Coldiron tied it up with a sure single into right field.
The tie did not last long, however, as Rogers deposited a 3-1 pitch from Bond over the right-field fence for a two-run homer just two hitters into the fifth to put Sam Houston back on top 5-3. But the Bearkats were not done there as a single from Blake Chisolm and a double from Hunter Hearn set up Harp who singled to right field to score a pair and give the Kats a 7-3 advantage.
Riley Gossett came in to pitch to open the sixth and was in position to put up a clean inning after striking out the first two hitters he faced; however, singles from Grayson Padgett and Jared Triolo followed to extend the inning. One batter later Joe Davis slammed a two-run double off the right-field wall to draw Houston to within 7-5.
Sam got a run back in the seventh, re-upping its lead to 8-5. A one-out single by Chisolm was followed by a walk to Hearn, once again bringing up Harp. The junior once again pulled a single into right field, bringing in Chisolm for his third RBI of the game. The Kats had a chance to add on more, but the Coogs snuffed out an attempted double steal before reliever Fred Villareal got Jordan Cannon out on strikes with a pair of runners on base.
The Kats looked to have things wrapped up after Mills got the first two outs of the ninth, but the Coogs had one last rally left in them. Consecutive singles by Lockhart and Drew Minter kept the game going and they got a run back on another single by Nick Slaughter inside the first-base bag. Charlie Bartlett then came to the plate and popped one up on the infield, but a stiff breeze blew the ball into no-man’s land and it landed in for an RBI double that cut the lead to 8-7 and put runners on second and third for the top of the order. But Mills bore down against Connor Hollis, punching him out on three pitches to end the game.