The Sam Houston State baseball team shook off their Opening Day jitters and picked up a 5-3 win over Northern Colorado Friday night at Don Sanders Stadium. The Bearkats started slow but got just enough offense to get head coach David Pierce his first season-opening win with the team.
“Overall this is the first time since we’ve been here that we’re 1-0 so it’s a good start,” Pierce said. “It’s nice to get the first win and I think it helps. I thought we started out like it was a typical opening game. I felt like we were a little tight.”
After three innings of scoreless baseball, junior outfielder Colt Atwood led off the fourth with a double and came around to score the first run of the season on a sacrifice fly by fellow junior outfielder Hayden Simerly.
Third baseman Carter Burgess kept the inning going with a two-out double off of the leftfield wall and first baseman Ryan O’Hearn singled through the right side to drive him in and make the score 2-0.
Northern Colorado put a run on the board in the fifth after Jake Ekman hit an RBI single up the middle.
The Bearkats added two more runs in the fifth. With one out, second basemen Ryan Farney reached base on an error by the third basemen. Shortstop Corey Toups singled and Atwood followed up with an RBI single to score Farney.
Catcher Anthony Azar grounded out to shortstop to drive in Toups and give the Kats a 4-1 lead.
Starter Tyler Eppler was replaced after the fifth inning. He allowed just one run on four hits and was credited with the win. He struck out two and walked three batters
“I thought Tyler did a very good job. He was at 80 pitches and early in the year that’s where I want him to be. I think he ended up at 83 pitches. We made most of the plays behind him,” Pierce added.
Lefthander Alan Scott came out of the bullpen and finished the game, picking up his first save of the season. He struck out seven batters and didn’t issue any walks.
The Bears were able to get a pair of runs off of Scott in his first inning of work. The 6’5 lefty was able to quickly get the first two outs but a perfectly placed bunt single by Colby Harrison got things started for Northern Colorado.
A single down the right field line put runners at the corners before right fielder Ben Netzel tripled to deep right center to plate both runners and cut the SHSU lead to 4-3. Scott kept the Bears off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
“Obviously there are some jitters and nerves (on opening day),” Scott said. “This is my third year here and it never gets easier. I was just excited to get out there and get the first outing out of the way.”
Sam Houston tacked on an insurance run in the seventh inning by way of an RBI single by Simerly. Farney led off the inning with an infield single and stole second before scoring. Simerly finished the game 2-for-3 with two RBI.
“The first couple of innings we were all kind of jittery,” Simerly said. “I think we just tried to do a little too much in the beginning. We grinded hard towards the middle and the end and pulled it out.”
The series with Northern Colorado continues Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The Kats and Bears will also play Sunday at 1 p.m. with the series finale Sunday at 4 p.m.