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Courtesy: David Barfield
Kats sweep Lamar
Courtesy: Gene Schallenberg/Huntsville Item
Release: 04/17/2011
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Whether it's inspired by their new mullets, mohawks or mustaches, the Bearkats have been doing a lot of things right lately and everything seems to be going their way.

Led by freshman Caleb Smith, who churned out a masterful 13-strikeout performance on the mound, and thanks to a fortunate series of events in the fifth, the Kats rallied for a 3-2 victory on Sunday afternoon and finished off a series sweep over Lamar.

"It really changed the momentum of the game," catcher John Hale said of the Bearkats' two-run fifth inning. "Getting those runs in that inning was good, considering that (Lamar pitcher Stephen Tromblee) was throwing some good stuff out there.

"This is a big sweep. Hopefully we keep playing this way and get good pitching outings and score enough runs to win."

Through the first four innings, Sam Houston (11-7 in Southland Conference play, 26-12 overall), which was already trailing the Cardinals 1-0, was able to get some offensive production, but weren't able to do anything with it

In the fifth, the Bearkats' fortunes changed in a matter of a few seconds and Sam Houston seized the momentum.

Following a strikeout by third baseman Kevin Miller to open the inning, right fielder Greg Olson laid down a drag bunt and found himself standing safely on first base.

"I haven't been able to do much bunting this year because I've been in the leadoff spot," Olson said. "With a lefty up there, I took the opportunity to lay it down and it worked out. It got things going. It felt good."

With Olson inching off the bag, Tromblee (0-2) attempted to pick him off, but the sophomore was already on his way to second. Tromblee's throw was in the dirt and bounced passed first baseman Wade Mathis' glove and rolled to the fence beside the Lamar dugout and Olson ended up at third base.

"I was actually going on that pitch," Olson said. "When I got to second, I turned around and then I realized it had gotten by him. That's a big play, a big error. One big play like that can completely change a game. Luckily it happened while we were on offense."

Not long into Hale's at-bat, Tromblee hurled a pitch that got past catcher Joey Latulippe and Olson scored to tie the game at 1.

The junior catcher took the very next pitch and sent it over the left-field wall to push Sam Houston ahead 2-1.

"That was kind of a gimme inning," SHSU head coach Mark Johnson said. "Greg does a great job of laying down a perfectly executed drag bunt, then he gets to third and then there was a passed ball and we get a run out of it. It relaxed us a little bit."

By that point, Smith was rolling on the mound, already striking out nine batters and allowing just two hits through five innings of work.

"What a great job by Caleb, eight innings," Olson said. "When's he's out there shutting it down and you know he'll put up zeros, you know you'll have a chance at the plate."

Hale added to Sam Houston's lead in the seventh when he doubled along the right-field line, driving in Olson from second base.

Smith (4-0) carried the Bearkats through the eighth, when he allowed his second run of the game. The freshman left-hander finished with 13 punchouts, tying a mark set by Jesse Marshall in 2005 against Lamar and Dallas Gallant last season against Creighton for second-most strikeouts in a single game by a Bearkat pitcher in school history.

"The story for me is Caleb Smith. He went out there and just dealt," Johnson said. "He's just got a great changeup. He hits spots well and he goes in and out well. He's got velocity that sets up the changeup. As soon as he establishes the changeup, he becomes a factor in the game."

"I was real comfortable out there. I was just happy to be out there. It's my first conference start, so I was trying to go out there and throw strikes," Smith said. "I was up there trying to let them hit it and they kept missing. I was just trying to let them put it in play and let the defense work."

Sophomore Michael Burchett relieved Smith in the ninth and got into some trouble as Latulippe and Pablo Salinas, who put Lamar ahead with a solo home run in the third inning, walked and singled, respectively, with two outs. Burchett closed the lid on the Cardinals, striking out pinch hitter Clayton Farhat to clinch the victory.

The Bearkats, now alone in third place and two games off the pace, will play at Texas Southern on Tuesday afternoon, then head to Thibodaux, La., for a three-game series, which begins Thursday, against Nicholls.

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