By Gene Schallenberg Huntsvile Item
HUNTSVILLE - What a difference a day makes.
McNeese State shelled the Sam Houston State pitching staff on Friday for 17 hits and 14 runs, but Saturday's game was a different story.
The Cowboys were stymied the entire afternoon by junior Dallas Gallant, who threw a complete game and rendered the Southland Conference's most potent offense ineffective.
The Bearkats used a big fifth inning to take a commanding 6-0 lead and held on to defeat McNeese State 7-1 on Saturday to even the series.
"It all starts with the guy out on the bump," Sam Houston head coach Mark Johnson said, "and Dallas did a great job for us. He was able to throw the breaking pitch behind in the count. It was really fun to watch him pitch. He was setting up hitters. He was calling his own game and really did a good job.
"We talked for a long time last night and this morning about character following blowout games and embarrassing games, which yesterday was in all facets. It says something about our team."
After struggling on the mound early in the season, Gallant (1-5) finally had reason to smile. The hard-throwing right-hander was nearly flawless, allowing just two hits, striking out six with one unearned run and eight scoreless innings.
"I felt good out there on the mound," said Gallant, who made his first start since leaving the series opener against Texas State on March 19 due to a back injury. "Our defense made some unbelievable plays to help me keep my pitch count down. A ground ball to (Ryan) Mooney, the play Braeden (Riley) made and Jared (Wondra) making a diving catch, it's a lot easier to pitch when those guys are making plays like that behind you.
"(McNeese State) is a good team. Last night they showed us they could hit the ball. I was just trying to focus on keeping the ball down and let my defense work behind me. I knew that if I could hold them to little or no runs, then our team would come out on top. It was a good game all the way around. It was fun."
Through the first couple of frames, Gallant kept the Cowboys, who brought the league's top batting average and most runs, hits, RBIs and home runs into Saturday's game, in check.
"Dallas really threw well and I think everybody fed off that energy," Mooney said. "He threw outstanding and that really set the tempo for the game. It's fun to play defense and hit for a guy who was throwing like he did."
The Bearkats (7-7 in SLC play, 14-18 overall) couldn't take advantage and were held hitless through the first three innings.
In the fourth, the Kats' aggressiveness on the basepaths paid off.
With two outs, Mooney stole second base and scored a pitch later when Wondra hit a grounder up the middle.
The real damage didn't come until the bottom of the fifth when the Kats' offense came to life.
On the first pitch of the inning, SHSU left fielder Payton Wisener tagged an at 'em ball at pitcher Tyler Davis (2-3), who tried to shield the ball with his back. Davis made a play on the ball and was able throw Wisener out at first.
"It hit me on my glove side, but it didn't really affect me," Davis said. "I felt fine, but every team has their inning and they put theirs together there. There was nothing I could do about it."
Even though the play ended with an out, it sparked the Bearkats offense and Sam Houston scored five runs before getting any more outs.
Catcher Doug Oney and designated hitter Jessie Plumlee scored to extend the Bearkats' lead to three runs. Mooney capped off the inning with a three-run blast over the left-center field wall.
"All I was trying to do was score the runner from third," Mooney said. "We had one out and runners on second and third and I was trying to drive them in. He threw two changeups earlier in the count that were balls that I picked up pretty well. I figured he was going to come back with a fastball and I just sat on it."
The Cowboys (9-5, 18-12) scored in the sixth with the help of two Sam Houston errors, but couldn't get anything going in the following innings.
With a runner on first, McNeese State third baseman Steven Irvine lined out to Mooney. Andy Riché couldn't get back to first in time and Mooney fired the ball to first baseman Daniel Nottebart for the final out.
The rubber match of the series will be today and will start at 1 p.m. at Don Sanders Stadium.
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.
For more information on the "Opening Day Sale" or other exciting offers like the "Friday Family Pack Tickets" or "Super Tuesday" Mini-Pack Tickets, go to the ticket link below or contact the Sam Houston State ticket office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House at Bowers Stadium. The ticket office telephone number is (936) 294-1729.