Sam Houston State defeated Central Arkansas, 7-3, on the back of starter Tyler Eppler’s seven-inning outing. With the win, the Bearkats (34-18, 18-7) claim at least a share of their second consecutive Southland Championship.
“Our guys have been battling so hard for the entire year and especially the last month of the season,” said Bearkat head coach David Pierce. “They’ve done such a great job of working hard and I’m really proud of them. We’re not done though. It’s been a great race for us and we just want to keep it going.”
Eppler made his return to the starting rotation and gave up just one run on four hits in his seven innings of work. The sophomore transfer struck out three and walked three while tying his season-high for innings pitched in a game.
Central Arkansas started the scoring with a run in the second inning. Catcher Michael Marietta doubled, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a sacrifice fly.
Left fielder Luke Plucheck answered with style in the bottom of the inning. The junior doubled and moved to third on a groundout. Then with right fielder Ryan O’Hearn at the plate, Plucheck broke for the plate and slid into home to score the Kats first run.
“We knew that UCA wasn’t as good as some others at holding runners on,” said Luke Plucheck. “After the first pitch, I told Coach Allen (at third base) that I thought I could steal home. On the third pitch I just took off and I’m pretty sure I beat the pitch home.”
The Bearkats broke the game open with four runs in the fifth inning. Shortstop Carter Burgess led off with a single and after two quick outs first baseman Jessie Plumlee was hit by a pitch to extend the inning.
Center fielder Colt Atwood doubled to score Burgess before catcher Anthony Azar followed with a double of his own to score Plumlee and Atwood. Third baseman Kevin Miller singled up the middle to score Azar and make the score 5-1.
Azar doubled again in the seventh inning to add some insurance runs. Farney reached on a bunt single and scored on Azar’s two-bagger. Miller then hit another RBI-single to make the score 7-1.
“Once we got the lead, Eppler did exactly what you want a pitcher to do,” Pierce said. “He was outstanding tonight. He gave us exactly what we needed and he really put us in a great position.”
Central Arkansas added two runs off of reliever Alan Scott in the eighth inning. Scott recovered and pitched a scoreless ninth inning to secure the win.
The Bearkats can clinch an outright title with a win over Central Arkansas Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. with “Senior Day” Saturday at 1 p.m.