Lamar had to be feeling pretty good when shortstop Aaron Buchanan sent the first pitch of the game over the right-field wall Friday night.
By the time the second inning was over, the Cardinals did not have much to cheer about. Bearkats center fielder Mark Hudson drove in three runs in the first two innings and Sam Houston State rolled to a 9-5 victory over Lamar at Don Sanders Stadium on Friday.
The senior laced an RBI single to right-center field to tie the game in the bottom of the first, then helped the Kats take game one of the best-of-three Southland Conference series with a two-run triple in the second as Sam Houston stormed out to a 5-1 lead.
"The offense got it started for the whole game," said Hudson, who went 2-for-4. "The bats came tonight. It was really good."
Buchanan wasted no time putting Lamar on top, lifting the first pitch he saw from Sam Houston starter Brandon Kimbrel over the wall in right to make it 1-0 right out of the gate.
Kimbrel sat the next three batters down in order after that, and the Bearkats offense responded in a hurry. Greg Olson and Ryan Mooney hit back-to-back singles to start the bottom half of the first and Hudson later hit an RBI single to tie the game.
Sam Houston (9-7 in SLC, 24-12 overall) rocked Lamar starter Blake Ford in the second to take control of the game. Kevin Miller, Kyle Singleton and Doug Oney all singled to make it 2-1. Mooney grounded out to bring in another run and Hudson just missed a three-run home run to left, but settled for a base-clearing triple to push the lead to 5-1.
Kimbrel breezed through the next two innings before running into trouble in the fifth. Lamar (9-7, 22-14) got three more runs off a double by Andy Mena, an infield single by Buchanan and a botched double play to cut the lead to 6-4.
Kimbrel was able to get out of the inning and pitched a scoreless sixth to improve to 5-1 on the season.
"It is real easy to pitch when you get run support. It takes some of the nerves off," Kimbrel said. "If you come out in the bottom half of the inning and get some runs after they scored, it takes that burden off you."
It did not take long for the Bearkats to squash any hopes of a Cardinal rally. Sam Houston tacked two more runs on the board in the eighth to seal it.
Mooney walked to begin the inning. Leading hitter Chris Andreas shook off three strikeouts in his previous three at bats to blast an RBI triple to right-center field. Senior Braeden Riley made it 9-4 with a sacrifice fly to left to push across the final run of the game.
The Bearkats bullpen took care of the rest. Michael Oros shut Lamar down in the seventh and eighth innings, while Paul Spinn pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to help Sam Houston pull even with the Cardinals and UT-Arlington for fourth in the SLC standings.
"We hit the ball well. We had like nine hits in three innings, I believe," SHSU head coach Mark Johnson said. "We adjusted well at the plate. They are a good team. We had a 6-1 lead and they came right back and put the heat on us. Our guys came back and increased the lead.
"Brandon gave us a chance to do that and Oros came in and settled it down. It was good."
Sam Houston and Lamar will meet in the second contest of the three game series Saturday at 2 p.m. First pitch in the third game Sunday will be 1 p.m.
Tickets for all Sam Houston home events are available online 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) 294-1729.