HOUSTON – The stage does not get much bigger in the regular season but it did not affect Clayton Harp.
The sophomore left fielder drove a bases-loaded, two-out double into left center in the eighth, scoring three runs to break a tie and highlight a 6-2 victory against Rice at Reckling Park on Tuesday.
Sam Houston (12-5) overcame a one-run deficit in the eighth after entering the frame having seen 13 straight hitters set down in order. Bearkats reliever Jordan Cannon (2-0) earned the victory, tossing one scoreless inning while fanning one.
Four Sam Houston relievers, including three freshmen, allowed just one Rice hit during the last 3 2-3 innings, striking out seven in that span to back a tone-setting start from Dakota Mills. The right-hander tossed 5 1-3 innings, permitting four hits and a pair of runs while striking out four without allowing a walk.
The loss dropped Rice to 6-12, while starter Willy Amador (0-4) was saddled with the hard-fought loss. The right-hander struck out six hitters while allowing four hits, three runs and a walk over seven innings.
The victory was the 10th in the last 11 games for Sam Houston and marked just the latest late-inning heroics for Harp, who also broke a tie at Baylor a season ago with two down in the ninth inning.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sam Houston got on the board in the third, taking advantage of the first Bearkat hit of the game, coming on a single through the left side from Hunter Hearn. Taylor Beene followed, and with the hit and run on, the shortstop sent a grounder into right field, advancing Hearn to third.
Riley McKnight grounded into the double play, scoring Hearn from third for a 1-0 lead, but effectively ending the threat of further damage. Defensively, the Kats turned two of their own double plays in the first two innings, holding Rice off the scoreboard until the fourth.
In the frame, Owls’ leadoff hitter Ryan Chandler led off with a double, reaching base in his 18th-straight game, setting the stage for Charlie Warren. The senior belted his first home run in two years, taking the first pitch over the wall in right to give Rice a 2-1 advantage.
Following the third, Rice starter Willy Amador set down the Bearkats in order in four straight innings, including a strikeout of Riley McKnight for the second out in the sixth, which was followed with an ejection of head coach Matt Deggs.
The Bearkats got something going in the eighth as leadoff hitter Blake Chisolm sent a single into right field, becoming Sam Houston’s first base runner since the third. Robie Rojas followed, shooting the first pitch he saw into right for a single, chasing Amador from the game.
With right-hander Addison Moss on to pitch, Hunter Hearn made the reliever work, drawing the walk to load the bases with none down for Beene. The senior sent a ball into center field for the sacrifice fly, knotting the game at 2-2 as pinch-runner Mac Odom came home to score.
Sam Houston, which has been surging of late with two outs, continued that streak in the biggest way. After pinch-hitter Jaxxon Grisham walked to load the bases and Bryce Johnson hit a liner to shortstop for the second out, Harp delivered, drilling a bases-clearing double into left center for a 5-2 advantage.
The Kats tacked on an insurance run in the ninth as Rojas reached on a fielder’s choice, allowing Fregia, who singled to lead off the frame, to score. The Kats managed just two hits through the first seven innings before coming through with four in the last two.
Head coach Matt Deggs on the victory…
“That was a heck of a fight. That’s why you just staying grinding. They’re never out of the fight. These guys are trained that way. They live that way. They just keep scrapping. We found a way to reach base at the end of game and the floodgates opened up. What gave us a chance to win that game was our starting pitching, our bullpen and our defense. We just started matching zeroes.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on Clayton Harp’s performance…
“He rolled over his first three at-bats. He had quick at-bats and then comes up and is good when it matters. That’s what we talk about is being good when it matters. The game was on the line. That has been our M.O. for two years, to get the big knock. He was able to bring everyone in with one swing just because he kept battling and kept having a positive outlook and mindset.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on continuing the momentum…
“Rice is a historic program and a really good team. I know they haven’t gotten off to the start they’ve wanted but they have a legendary coach, super good players and great pitching. They will be fine. It’s a good win for us because they’re going to go on and beat some people. To come on the road and get win like this, it’s definitely a boost.”
Outfielder Clayton Harp on his eighth-inning at-bat…
“I was coming in there, just looking for something over the plate to hit. I was looking for a fastball and I was able to get it. I put a good swing on it but I wasn’t too sure if it got over the left fielder and when I was rounding first I saw he missed it.”
Outfielder Clayton Harp on coming through in key situations and the Kats success…
“You just have to stay calm and don’t get ahead of yourself. You have to know who you are and what you can do. Our pitching staff has been blowing through people. Our bullpen is throwing up zeroes. That’s what has kept us in it and allowed us hitters to get back in it.”