With a golden opportunity to take over sole possession of third place in the Southland Conference, the Bearkats left a few too many baserunners aboard.
Sam Houston's inability to take advantage of scoring scenarios early in Sunday's series finale came back to haunt the Kats. Southeastern Louisiana's big sixth inning was enough to upend Sam Houston 4-2 and hand the Kats their second straight conference baseball series loss.
"It was a tough loss because I think we put ourselves in a position to win a couple of those innings, but we just didn't get the breaks that we needed," Sam Houston senior second baseman Ryan Mooney said. "I think we grounded into a double play a couple of times and we left some guys on base that we could've drove in. It's a tough one to swallow."
The Bearkats appeared to have everything going in their favor early in the rubber match against the Lions.
Just like they had the game before, the Kats struck first, scoring off a solo home run off the bat of senior Chris Andreas over the left-center field wall in the first inning.
In both the third and fourth innings, Sam Houston (13-11 in SLC, 29-17 overall) had prime chances to extend its lead only to leave baserunners stranded.
Following an out to open the third inning, Sam Houston loaded the bases with a pair of singles hit to the outfield by Mooney and right fielder Greg Olson and Andreas also reached safely on a fielder's choice. Southeastern second baseman Brock Hebert cleanly fielded the ball hit by Andreas and attempted to get Olson out at second base on a force play, but his throw was off and all three Bearkats were safe as a result. Sam Houston came up empty, though, as senior shortstop Braeden Riley grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Again in the fourth, the Bearkats had a baserunner in scoring position with just one out, but left fielder Kyle Singleton grounded into a double play to end the inning.
"In the middle innings, there was a chance that we might be able to put it away, but we just couldn't get another hit," Sam Houston head coach Mark Johnson said.
"We had two double plays to end those innings. Even if we could've had just one out, we could've scored, but it didn't work out that way."
Those unfulfilled scoring opportunities were indeed costly.
The Lions (14-10, 30-16), who managed just one hit in the first five innings, made the most of their sixth inning that included a hit batter, an error and saw just one ball fly out of the infield. Southeastern scored four runs in the inning and took the lead for good.
"One of the things our coaches really preach about is when the other team gives you a chance to extend the inning, you've got to execute," Southeastern designated hitter and Huntsville-native Cody Gougler said. "Those chances don't come very often, so we were happy to get a chance to score some more runs and it paid off in the end of the game."
Lions right fielder Trey Martin was hit by Bearkats pitcher Matt Shelton (6-1) to lead off the inning and then advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Hebert. Martin then scored to tie the game on a fielding error by Mooney on a ball hit by first baseman Jonathan Pace.
"Mooney had our only error. He was going for the play at home plate. It was a tough play," Johnson said.
Following a single to center field by shortstop Justin Boudreaux, left fielder Jeff Harkensee hit a hard roller just past first baseman Daniel Nottebart's glove to plate another Lions run.
The Bearkats had a chance to get out of the inning trailing by just a run, but center fielder Cass Hargis hit a grounder to second base and beat out a possible double play to bring in another run and continue the inning. Gougler pushed Southeastern's fourth run of the inning across on a slow roller to third base and reached first base, just ahead of Sam Houston third baseman Kevin Miller's throw.
"(Shelton) was doing a great job of locating both pitches low in the strike zone, but we knew he had tendencies of hitting batters," Gougler said. "Once we got a couple of hit batters, a couple of big hits here and there and some luck on our side and before you know it, we had the lead and held onto it."
Sam Houston answered with a run in the sixth to cut the deficit to 4-2, but the Bearkats couldn't find their way on base in the final three innings.
"Their pitchers threw well and kept us off balance. We didn't capitalize when we needed to," Mooney said.
Sam Houston will play host to Texas Southern Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Don Sanders Stadium.
Tickets for Sam Houston's Tuesday game and the Coach Mark Johnson farewell Southland series (May 19-21 vs. TAMUCC) are available on line 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 is (936) 294-1729.