A five-run sixth inning sparked by a double by catcher John Hall and home runs by left fielder Luke Plucheck and third baseman Kevin Miller powered Sam Houston to a 7-1 victory over McNeese State in an elimination game on the second day of the 20th annual Southland Conference post-season baseball tournament.
The number one-seeded Bearkats, who left eight on base in Wednesday's 9-2 loss to eight seed A&M-Corpus Christi, had stranded six runners stranded in five scoreless innings to start Thursday's contest with No. 5 seed McNeese.
Right fielder Jake Arrington started the top of the sixth reaching on an error. A double to the left field wall by catcher John Hale scored Arrington. Hale scored on a fielder's choice by shortstop Corey Toups. Plucheck followed with his second home run of the year to center field to score Toups. Miller blasted his first homer of the season to left field.
"We kept getting all of our hits with two outs and just couldn't seem to break through," said head coach David Pierce. "We finally started to put something together and got the big inning."
McNeese State got a run back in the bottom of the sixth as catcher Matt Henry doubled, reached third on an error, then scored on a sacrifice fly by center fielder Andrew Guillotte.
Sam Houston extended their lead to 7-1 on an RBI single by center fielder Colt Atwood and a bases loaded walk by designated hitter Anthony Azar.
Justin Jackson, who did not give up a hit to McNeese until the ninth inning of his 2-0 shutout in Lake Charles April 21, kept the Cowboy bats silent again Thursday. The senior hurler gave up only two hits in the first seven innings and ended the day surrendering just five hits as he upped his season record to 8-4 in his second complete game performance of the season.
"It was real big for Justin to go out there and get the complete game," Pierce said. "When you look at the number of games we have to come back and win it is big for us to keep people fresh."
McNeese State's Tyler McDonald (4-4) was the losing pitcher. The Cowboys end the season with a 24-30 overall record. The Bearkats now stand 37-19 for the year.
Sam Houston State now face a rematch with A&M-Corpus Christi at 9 a.m. Friday. The Islanders lost 10-5 to No. 4 UT-Arlington Thurdsay night. The winner of the 9 a.m. SHSU-TAMUCC elimination contest will take on the Mavericks at 4 p.m. Friday. The tournament championship game will be played Saturday afternoon.
The Bearkats are attempting to become only the third No. 1 seed to win the Southland tournament title in the event's 20-year modern history. Only four teams in those 20 tournaments have come through the loser's bracket after falling on opening day to win the title.
The tournament winner receives that Southland's automatic bid to the NCAA Division I regionals which begin next weekend. Sam Houston won Southland tournament titles in 1996, 2007, 2008 and 2009 but went through those championships unbeaten.
Sam Houston will have live audio streaming of all Bearkat games at the Southland Conference tournament on www.gobearkats.com .