HOUSTON – The Sam Houston State Bearkats split a pair of games on the second day of the Houston Invitational on Sunday, getting into the win column for the first time this year with a victory over Illinois before falling to Houston in the tournament finale.
Brooke Malia turned in a big game with a homer and five RBI in a 10-6 win over the Illini, the Kats’ (1-3) first win over a Big 10 team since 2013. But Sam Houston was not able to carry that offensive momentum over to the tournament finale, falling 2-1 to the host Cougars.
The Kats will now return to Huntsville on Wednesday for the team’s home opener against Texas Southern. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Bearkat Softball Complex.
Sam Houston State 10, Illinois 6 (Box Score)
Malia had a huge day and the Bearkats took advantage of five Illinois errors in the field to register their first victory of the season and of the Garrett Valis era in the day’s opener.
The sophomore second baseman had extra-base hits in each of her first three at-bats and finished with a career-best five RBI for the game to lead the Bearkat offense just one day after it had struggled to get timely hits. She had an RBI double in the first, a three-run double in the second and blasted her first homer of the year in the fourth.
Regan Dunn picked up the win in relief of starter Annie Bailey, her first collegiate victory, after throwing 4.0 innings of relief with four strikeouts and two runs allowed. Bailey allowed four runs – three earned – with one strikeout in 3.0 frames of work.
After a tough day on Saturday offensively, the Bearkats wasted no time getting the bats going in Sunday’s opening frame. Doubles by McDonald and Malia sparked a three-run first that gave the Kats an early lead.
A double steal by McDonald and Tiffany Thompson got the first Bearkat run on the board, and Malia followed with an RBI double. Two batters later Kutac got in on the action with a single and an error on the play allowed Malia to come in and score for a 3-0 SHSU lead.
Illinois’ Bella Loya immediately answered with a solo homer off of Bailey just two pitches into the second inning, but the Bearkats responded themselves in the bottom half of the frame. An Illinois error, along with a single by Kayte Martinez and a walk loaded the bases, setting up Malia once again who delivered her second straight double, clearing the bases with two outs to put the Kats up 6-1.
The Illini answered with two more runs in the third to cut the lead in half, then made it 6-4 when Loya led off an inning with a solo homer to open the fourth, prompting the Kats to bring in Dunn from the pen.
The freshman got out of the inning and the SHSU offense responded with two more runs in the bottom of the fourth, including Malia’s third extra-base hit of the game – a solo homer with two away that made it an 8-4 game.
Illinois had one last rally in the fifth, scoring two and putting the tying runs on second and third with two away; however, Dunn was able to set Veronica Ruelius down on strikes to end the inning and the Kats responded with two more runs in the bottom half of the inning on RBI from McDonald and Fisher to push the lead back to a comfortable 10-6 margin.
Dunn handled things the rest of the way, retiring seven of the final nine hitters she faced.
Houston 2, Sam Houston State 0 (Box Score)
On just a 30-minute turnaround from Game 1, the bats were not able to get going as the Bearkats registered just one hit in the first six innings off of UH starter Trystan Melancon in a 2-0 Cougar win.
SHSU starter Lindsey McLeod was solid in the circle, allowing just two runs – one earned – on five hits with a pair of punchouts, but was still saddled with her second loss of the weekend. Sam Houston made it interesting in the seventh when freshman Kutac led off with a solo home run, cutting the lead in half, but Melancon was able to get the next three to close it out.
Houston had just five hits in the game, but put two of them together in the first inning to take a lead they would not relinquish. Lindsey Stewart led off with a triple on the first pitch she saw in the opening frame and two batters later Savannah Heebner singled her home to put UH up 1-0.
Two innings later the Cougars tacked on another score as Sarah Barker got it started with a leadoff bunt single, moving to second on a bunt and eventually to third on a grounder. Then, with Heebner at the plate, Barker came home on a passed ball to provide what would eventually be the deciding run.
Meanwhile, Melancon was cruising for the Cougars. The UH starter allowed a leadoff single to McDonald in the third, but proceeded to retire each of the next 12 hitters she faced until Kutac’s homer to open the seventh.
That shot gave the Kats a chance in the final frame, but Melancon was able to get each of the next three batters she faced on balls in the air to close it out.