Kimbrel (3-1) spread seven hits over nine innings, striking out nine batters and walking only one. The victory upped Sam Houston's record to 19-11 for the season and 6-6 in Southland Conference play.
Sam Houston put plenty of pressure on the Demons, and a day after losing 3-0, the Kats found a way and beat Northwestern State by the same score to take the Southland Conference baseball series two games to one.
"They kept our hitters off balance for most of the weekend. It took a while to make an adjustment, but we scored three runs today, which was enough to win the game," Bearkats second baseman Ryan Mooney said.
After squandering good scoring opportunities in the three preceding innings, paced by their opportunistic baserunning with seven stolen bases, the Bearkats broke onto the scoreboard in the fifth, snapping a 14-inning drought.
Following first baseman Greg Olson's one-out single and subsequent stolen base, Mooney drove in the Kats' first run with a chopper up the middle.
"We felt that with the way their pitcher was throwing, getting on base and putting pressure on the pitcher to make his pitches really helped us," said Mooney, who successfully swiped three bases. "Getting in scoring position is big for low-scoring games like this. With a runner at second, even with two outs, you're still in scoring position and still gives us a chance to get a hit and put up a run."
Kimbrel started to run into trouble late in the game.
In the sixth, after a throwing error by Mooney and a single by pitcher Colin Bear (2-2), Northwestern State had runners on the corners with one out. Kimbrel fought his way out with a strikeout, then ended the inning on a pop out by catcher Matt Farmer in foul territory.
With Kimbrel keeping the Demons (3-9, 9-19) quiet, the Bearkats added to their lead.
Olson scored for a second time on designated hitter Chris Andreas' double down the left-field line in the seventh.
Kimbrel pitched out of another jam with runners on first and third with one out in the seventh. Shortstop Nick Hinojos struck out swinging and first baseman Will Watson grounded out to shortstop Braeden Riley.
"Those are the moments coach (Mark) Johnson talks about being ready for, just making big pitches in your spots," Kimbrel said. "I was fortunate enough to make some quality pitches and get out of those innings with nobody hurt."
The Bearkats extended their lead to 3-0 with left fielder Luke Plucheck's double to right field, scoring catcher Doug Oney from second base in the bottom of the eighth.
Even after walking Farmer in the eighth, his first of the game, to put a Demon in scoring position, Kimbrel got second baseman Justin Martinez to roll out to end the inning. The senior then coasted to the shutout, retiring Northwestern State in order in the ninth.
"I thought Kimbrel was the storyline for sure," Johnson said. "He goes out there and throws a shutout. He has a couple of tough innings, but he absolutely rises up and gets a strikeout or gets a guy out.
"It was one of those weekends that we didn't match up well, particularly on Saturday or Sunday with our pitchers. Our pitchers threw very, very well.
"Still, we pulled off two out of three. We played good defense. ... For the weekend, defensively, I thought we did fine. Pitchers gave us a chance to win. We just didn't hit real well this weekend. That comes and goes, so I'm not real worried about that. There were a lot of positives."
Sam Houston plays host to the Baylor Bears Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Don Sanders Stadium in a non-conference encounter.
The Bearkats' next Southland Conference action will be a weekend road trip to Lake Charles, La., to take on the McNeese State Cowboys. The series begins Friday night at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets for all Sam Houston State home baseball games at Don Sanders Stadium are on sale online now at www.gobearkats.com/tickets or at the SHSU athletic ticket office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House at Bowers Stadium. Ticket office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The ticket office telephone number is (936) 294-1764.