By Gene Schallenberg The Huntsville Item
HUNTSVILLE - The Bearkats have certainly shown they have a knack for digging themselves out of trouble.
Trailing by as many as five runs Tuesday, Sam Houston State clawed back before using a five-run eighth to overtake Dallas Baptist 9-7 to win its seventh game in a row.
"We fight back," Bearkats catcher Doug Oney said. "We've been doing that all season. It's just kind of been our M.O., so it's nice to continue playing strong when we need to."
After chipping away to pull within three runs, the Bearkats finally hit into high gear at the plate in the eighth inning.
Mark Hudson led off the inning with a double to center field, then first baseman Taylor Davis ripped a liner to the same spot to drive in Hudson.
Chris Andreas followed with a single through the left side of the infield. With runners on first and second, Jared Wondra laid down a sacrifice bunt to pitcher Chris Haney.
Haney then threw a wild pitch that catcher Duncan McAlpine couldn't reel in, which allowed Davis to score. Right fielder Greg Olson ripped a liner over shortstop Austin Elkins' glove to tie the game at 7.
Dallas Baptist coach Dan Heefner replaced Haney with first baseman Ryan Bemanesh, but that move didn't stop the bleeding for the Patriots.
SHSU shortstop Kevin Miller was hit by a pitch, then during Oney's at-bat, Bemanesh threw a wild pitch, which allowed Olson and Miller to move into scoring position.
With a chance to take their first lead of the game, Oney laid a sacrifice bunt down the first-base line and the Patriots' only play was to first base.
The Bearkats, who improved to 12-13 on the season, added an insurance run when Michael Heard hit an RBI single to right field.
"We started out a little flat and we got in a hole, but we trusted our pitchers to come around and they did a great job," Oney said. "We had some relief arms that came in and did absolutely fantastic. They held the score to absolutely nothing after the fourth and hitters came around."
Pitching with the lead for the first time all night, junior reliever Daniel Nottebart shut the door on Dallas Baptist, retiring the Patriots with two strikeouts and a popout to Davis.
"Coach (Mark Johnson) always tells us that we have to grind," Nottebart said. "Once we got the lead, I knew all I had to do was throw some strikes and try to make them get themselves out.
"Of course, you always get a little more adrenaline going when you have the lead and it's so close to the end of the ballgame," Nottebart said. I just tried to keep it low so they couldn't get a piece of it. That helps a lot."
The Bearkats got into such a deep hole almost as soon as the game started.
After Sam Houston tied the game at 1 in the first inning, Dallas Baptist jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the second inning.
With the bases loaded, second baseman Austin Knight singled to right field and the Patriots took a 2-1 lead.
Bearkats pitcher Michael Burchett relieved starting pitcher Will Murray and on his first offering, left fielder Tyler Robbins launched a shot over the left-field fence for a grand slam.
"We put the two freshman pitchers out there to get started and to get them some work. We started the game out a little bit rusty and those guys had rough outings," Johnson said.
Through the final seven innings, the Bearkats pitchers held Dallas Baptist to seven hits and just one run.
"The other guys came in and did well. We were short on pitching, so we were just going to get one inning out of those other guys," Johnson said. "(Jordan) Westra hasn't pitched for three or four weeks and he looked really good. (Dallas) Gallant got through it without any trouble, so that was good. (Matt) Shelton had his stuff.
"I was pleased with those guys who were just coming in for an inning just to get some work in and work on some pitches."
The Bearkats, riding a four-game Southland Conference winning streak, return to conference play Thursday for a three-game series against Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La.
Bearkat baseball notes
Gallant back on the hill - For the first time in a week and a half, junior starting pitcher Dallas Gallant, who has been nursing a back injury, returned to the mound. Gallant threw just one inning and allowed one hit.
C'mon kids - Sam Houston State unveiled a new game-day tradition as children were invited atop the Bearkats dugout in the middle of the fourth inning and danced as "YMCA" played over the speakers.
Next Bearkat home game
Sam Houston State returns to Don Sanders Stadium for a Southland Conference series with McNeese State April 9-11.
Tickets for Sam Houston State baseball home games are on sale online at www.gobearkats.com. All Sam Houston students, faculty and staff receive free admission with their SHSU BearkatOne I.D. cards.
For $2, students and faculty/staff can upgrade their seats with reserved chairback seat. Offer is available at the ticket booth the day of the game.
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.
Fans also can order exciting Sam Houston State gear at Bearkat Gear link on www.gobearkats.com.