By Gene Schallenberg Huntsville Item
HUNTSVILLE - Center fielder Mark Hudson went 7-for-9 to lead Sam Houston State as the Bearkats split a Southland Conference baseball doubleheader with Texas State Sunday afternoon.
Texas State won the first game 9-8 and the Bearkats rallied for a 10-8 victory in the nightcap. The Bobcats took two-of-three games in the series to up their season record to 11-7. The Bobcats stand 4-2 in league action. Sam Houston now is 6-13 for the year and 3-3 in Southland play.
A bright spot for the Kats Sunday was the offense, which gave them a chance to win both games in the doubleheader against the rival Bobcats.
The Bearkats held slim leads entering the ninth inning of both games. Texas State rallied to win the first game 9-8 with a two-run homer, but in the nightcap, Sam Houston held off the Bobcats to win the series finale 10-8.
"It's disappointing," SHSU head coach Mark Johnson said. "I think we're better than what we're playing right now. The guys are trying hard, they're probably trying too hard. All the errors we made, we make those plays in practice.
"We still have a chance to be a good ballclub, but we're not there yet. We're not pitching well enough. We're letting leadoff guys get on base at a fairly high rate. We're not getting the bottom of the order out and we're not playing defense well enough."
In all three games of the series, starting pitching was an issue for the Bearkats.
In the nightcap of the doubleheader, the Bobcats (4-2, 11-7) once again were advantageous from the start.
Texas State jumped all over SHSU starter Paul Spinn for seven hits and four runs in the first two innings to take a 4-1 lead.
Spinn settled down and retired two batters to end the top half of the third with a runner in scoring position.
The Bearkats, who scored one run off two hits in the first two innings, caught fire in the third.
After flying out twice to lead off the second, the Kats started to get their timing down against Texas State starter Lee Colon.
Second baseman Braeden Riley began the rally with a single to shallow right-center field, his only hit of the game. Center fielder Mark Hudson followed with a sharp liner that skipped off the dirt and bounced off first baseman Kyle Livingstone's glove and into the outfield.
With both Hudson and Riley in scoring position, first baseman Taylor Davis tried to hit through the left side of the infield. Bobcats shortstop Jason Martinson snagged the ball on the border of the outfield but was unable to make a play and Riley waltzed home. Designated hitter Chris Andreas then hit through the right side of the infield to drive in Hudson to pull the Kats to within a run.
With runners on first and second, left fielder Jared Wondra drilled the ball along the first-base line to clear the bases and give the Bearkats their first lead of the game.
"It's real good whenever we can get those two-out hits and keep those runners going," Andreas said.
Texas State pushed a run across in the fourth and two more in the seventh to take a 7-6 lead.
But after clawing back into the game, the Kats weren't about to let another game slip away.
With one out, Hudson and Davis singled to the outfield and moved into scoring position after a wild pitch by Brian Borski. Waiting for his pitch, Andreas connected on a changeup and drove in Hudson and Davis to give Sam Houston State the lead for good.
"He was a changeup guy," Andreas said. "I've been pitched away this whole series. I finally got a decent changeup in and I just turned on it. There was less than two outs and I was just trying to get that run home to tie it. I had to put the ball on the ground. I did it and luckily, I found a hole. It went through and I got a double out of it."
The Bobcats pulled to within a run in the eighth and the Bearkats answered with a run to extend their lead back to two.
Texas State catcher Jordan Kopycinski singled and then advanced to second on a wild pitch by Daniel Nottebart. But Nottebart held off the threat to preserve the victory and earn his first save of the season.
"I was pleased after losing two ball games, especially with the way we lost the first one today in discouraging fashion, but to come back and win, this one shows some character," Johnson said.
In the first game of the doubleheader, the Bearkats committed a handful of errors and those proved to be costly.
Tied at three apiece, the defense fell apart for the Bearkats in the fourth inning.
After catcher Andrew Stumph singled to left field, Sam Houston State defense went awry. A pair of errors by shortstop Ryan Mooney and catcher Doug Oney coupled with a pair of wild pitches from Justin Jackson helped produce three Texas State runs in the fourth inning as the Bobcats took a 6-3 lead.
"We've just got to keep working at it and get comfortable with the game and comfortable with each other," Johnson said. "We've got to get our game up. We're missing ground balls for a double play or pop-ups. Of course it was windy, but it wasn't the first time we've seen wind.
"Every one of those plays we had today, we've practiced. We just have to keep focusing on getting it done. I think our focus is good, but we're having trouble."
Despite all of their errors which allowed Texas State to take the lead and build upon it, the Bearkats made a game of it in the fifth inning.
Mooney hit a one-out single, which drove in a pair of runs, and Wondra singled to drive in Nottebart from second base. After third baseman Jessie Plumlee grounded out, Oney pushed the Bearkats lead with a single, which drove in a pair of runs.
The lead held until the top of the ninth.
With one out and a runner on first, Martinson launched a shot over the right-field fence to complete the cycle and give Texas State a 9-8 lead.
Sam Houston State couldn't respond in the final half-inning and the Bobcats held on for the win.
The Bearkats have a busy week in store for them. Sam Houston will host Houston Baptist on Tuesday and Prairie View A&M on Wednesday before heading to San Antonio to begin a three-game series on Friday against the last-place UTSA Roadrunners.
Tickets for Sam Houston State baseball home games are on sale online at www.gobearkats.com. The Sam Houston State athletic ticket office in the Ron Mafrige Field House at Bowers Stadium is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The ticket office telephone number is 936 294-1729.