HUNTSVILLE – It took 11 innings to do it, but the Southeastern Louisiana Lions squared up the series with the Sam Houston State Bearkats with a 6-4 win on Saturday afternoon at Don Sanders Stadium.
The Lions (31-18, 18-8 SLC) put up 15 hits on the day – 14 singles – and managed to plate a pair of runs in the top of the 11th to even up the series between the top two teams in the Southland Conference.
Sam Houston (33-14, 19-4 SLC) erased a three-run deficit with three two-out runs in the fifth, but were unable to plate another the rest of the day, leaving 10 runners on base against a quintet of Lion arms. Hunter Hearn, Chase Cryer and Ben Haefner all picked up a pair of hits with four Kats tallying an RBI on the day.
Cody Grosse led the Lions with a four-hit day, scoring three times from the top of the lineup while Evan Pace and Bryce Steckler each hit safely twice as part of a bottom-third of the order who reached base five times.
Seth Ballew got the start and went 6.1 innings, striking out three and not walking a batter; however, the Lions got to him for three runs on five hits in the first two frames before adding another in the top of the fifth. Dakota Mills took the loss, his first of the year, after allowing the go-ahead runs in the 11th. He finished with three of Sam Hoston’s 10 strikeouts on the afternoon.
The Kats will take another crack at winning their eighth straight league series this season on Sunday in the finale. First pitch is set for 1:00 p.m. with sophomore Hayden Wesneski getting the start against Lion righty Corey Gaconi.
Southeastern came out swinging and got on the board early with three of the first four hitters of the game reaching on singles. The third came from Taylor Schwaner, plating Grosse for a 1-0 lead before an attempted double steal with Kyle Schimpf at the plate gave the Lions another run on the board.
The Lions added another run in the second on an RBI single by Steckler in the second, but the Kats were finally able to get to SLU starter Carlisle Koestler for a run in the fourth. A single by Hunter Hearn got the inning going with one out, but it was Chase Cryer’s second two-out double of the day that drove the run home, cutting the SLU lead to 3-1.
An RBI single by Drew Avans upped the lead to 4-1 in the top of the fifth, but Sam Houston tied it up in the bottom half with three consecutive two-out hits. A single by Jaxxon Grisham was compounded by a pair of SLU errors and Andrew Fregia cashed in on an RBI chance two batters later, punching a single back up the middle to trim the lead to 4-2. Blake Chisolm then followed with an RBI double and Hearn was right behind him with an RBI single off of Koestler, knotting it all up at 4-4.
SLU had a chance to retake the lead in the seventh, loading the bases with just one out on a single and a pair of walks. But Bearkat reliever Brad Demco was able to strike out both Avans and Schwaner to keep the game tied up.
Both teams had chances to score in the eighth, but stranded runners. The Kats, then, had a chance to win it in walk-off fashion in the home half of the ninth after a one-out double by Ben Haefner put a runner in scoring position. But SLU reliever Peyton Lee, who tossed 2.1 one-hit innings on the day, followed that up with a strikeout and a ground out to force extra innings.
Neither team could scratch across a run in the 11th, but the Lions finally broke through in their half of the 11th. Both Steckler and Grosse singled off of Mills to start the inning before Nick Pilutti delivered a go-ahead sacrifice fly to put the Lions up 5-4. Avans followed that up one batter later with an RBI single to score Grosse, giving SLU some insurance going into the bottom half of the inning.
They would need it there as singles by both Jordan Cannon and Riley McKnight gave the Kats life with two outs before Jared Biddy finally recorded the final out to finish out his third save of the year.