Friday's series opener had everything that was to be expected between a pair of teams battling to stay in the Southland Conference championship hunt.
There was solid pitching, flashy defensive plays and some clutch hitting. Southeastern Louisiana just made the plays when it mattered most.
After the Bearkats rallied to force extra innings for the second time this week, the Lions got a big hit in the top of the 10th inning to hand the Bearkats a 5-4 loss at Don Sanders Stadium.
The two teams came into the three-game series tied for third in the SLC with UT-Arlington, but Southeastern Louisiana moved a game ahead of the Bearkats heading into the final two contests.
"I thought it was a great game with really good plays by both teams," SHSU head coach Mark Johnson said. "We made some diving plays, they made some diving plays and if the ball doesn't go through, we don't go to extra innings on either side."
Sam Houston (12-10 in SLC, 28-16) got a little ninth-inning magic off the bat of Chris Andreas in the form of a two-run home run to force extra innings in an 8-5 victory over sixth-ranked Texas A&M on Tuesday night.
Friday, it was right fielder Greg Olson's turn to step into the spotlight. Center fielder Mark Hudson and catcher John Hale both singled with two outs to start a rally in the eighth with the Bearkats down 4-3.
Olson came up and dropped a blooper into left field to tie the game.
The Lions (13-9, 29-15) threatened to end the game in the ninth when Cass Hargis doubled off the wall in right-center field with one out. SHSU relief pitcher Michael Oros then got a strikeout and second baseman Ryan Mooney robbed Justin Boudreaux of a potential RBI single with a nifty diving stab for a ground out to end the inning.
"We have pride and we didn't want to end it," Hale said. "We wanted to put ourselves in the best position to win and we made some big plays in the field and at the plate. We just didn't make enough tonight."
Southeastern got a little luck to push across what would prove to be the game-winning run in the top of the 10th. Josh Cryer reached on an infield single and advanced to second base on a wild pitch.
Brock Herbert was able to drop a single into right field, which allowed Cryer to easily score from second.
The Bearkats had one final chance. Hudson walked and Hale singled up the middle with two outs in the bottom of the 10th. Olson battled Lions closer Stefan Lopez for a walk to load the bases, but first baseman Daniel Nottebart struck out to end the game.
"I wasn't disappointed with our play. We did have a few mistakes here and there, but on the whole I thought our pitchers gave us a chance," Johnson said. "It's just baseball. We came up short and we will be ready to go tomorrow."
The Lions jumped out to a 2-0 lead off Bearkats starter Brandon Kimbrel in the first. Hale drove in a run in the bottom half of the frame with a single and Mooney tied it up in the second with an RBI single.
Southeastern got a run in the fifth when Kimbrel walked a pair of runners with two outs and Jeff Harkensee doubled to left. The Lions went back up two with another run in the sixth.
Nottebart pulled the Bearkats to within one with an RBI single in the seventh.
The series continues today with a 2 p.m. contest. The two teams will wrap things up on Sunday at 1 p.m.
BEARKAT AUTOGRAPH DAY SUNDAY
Following the final game of the Kats-Lions series Sunday afternoon, the Sam Houston baseball team will be on the field for a special autograph session.
All fans are invited and may bring their own items to be signed. Huntsville Boys Baseball Association (HBBA) players will receive an SHSU logo baseball when they enter the stadium on Sunday which they can get signed at the autograph session.
Sam Houston has only six home games remaining at Don Sanders Stadium this year. Following the Southeastern Louisiana series this weekend, the Bearkats will play host to Texas Southern Tuesday, May 3 at 6:30 p.m. and then face A&M-Corpus Christi in the final Southland series of the year Thursday through Saturday, May 19-21.
The Mark Johnson Farewell Game with special pre-game ceremonies honoring Sam Houston's head coach will be on Friday, May 20, at 6:30 p.m. and "Senior Day" will highlight the home finale on Saturday, May 21.
Tickets for all seven home games are available online at www.gobearkats.com/tickets or by calling or stopping by 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 is (936) 294-1729.