CONWAY, Ark. – The confines of Bear Stadium have not been kind to Sam Houston State over the years. That remained true again as Central Arkansas secured the sweep on Sunday.
The Bearkats were plagued by three errors and allowed a single run in every inning between the second and the eighth, falling 7-5, in the first Southland Conference-series sweep since March 21-23, 2014, also coming at the mercy of the Bears in the same facility.
Sam Houston (26-14, 13-5 SLC), who has dropped five-straight league games for the first time since 2011, re-took the lead twice behind a pair of two-run frames including a 6-5 advantage in the sixth as a two-out single from Lance Miles plated two runners.
In a game that featured five lead changes and three ties, it was once again Central Arkansas’s bunting ability and Sam Houston’s defensive mishaps that proved costly. The Bears (22-18, 10-8 SLC) plated the eventual unearned winning run on a sacrifice fly in the seventh following a sac bunt and error.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Central Arkansas used three singles including an RBI base knock from eight-hole hitter Eddie Sanchez into right center to take a 1-0 lead in the second before starter Dakota Mills stranded a pair with a five-pitch strikeout.
The Bearkats answered in the third with a little help from the Bears. Leadoff hitter Taylor Beene lifted a high-fly on the infield but on a sun-splashed day, the ball dropped between defenders and Beene scampered to second for his third double of the season.
Riley McKnight followed, laying down the first pitch bunt, beating the throw to put runners on the corners. Bryce Johnson knotted the game with a sacrifice fly into center and McKnight continued to showcase his speed, swiping second and advancing to third as the ball trickled into the outfield with Lance Miles at the plate.
After Miles walked, the Bearkats pulled off the double steal as Miles eluded the tag at second and McKnight broke on the pitch, scoring standing up for the 2-1 lead.
The back-and-forth trend continued as Central Arkansas tied up the game in the bottom half. With one down, Mills could not handle the bunt and Hunter Strong sent a full-count double, the Bears first extra-base hit of the series, into right right. One batter later, an RBI groundout tied the game at 2-2.
Sam Houston produced a pair of two-out hits in the fourth but came up empty and Central Arkansas re-took the lead in the bottom half. The Bears chased Mills from the game with a leadoff four-pitch walk and executed sacrifice bunt. With Jordan Cannon on, a single up the middle and squeeze bunt, plated one.
The Kats made something out of nothing in the fifth, registering three-straight, two-out singles including a 3-1, RBI hit for Blake Chisolm into left field, tying the game at 3-3. Another leadoff free pass hurt the Kats in the bottom half as a two-out single off Dominic Robinson put the Bears ahead 4-3.
The lead was short lived for Central Arkansas as Sam Houston chased starter Mark Moyer from the game as McKnight drew a four-pitch walk and took second when Bryce Johnson lined a single past the diving second baseman. Clayton Harp moved the runners up on a grounder to the right side.
Miles produced the big hit, shooting a first-pitch single up the middle, plating a pair for the 5-4 lead. The Bearkats appeared poised to keep the Bears off the scoreboard in the sixth but a two-out wild pitch scored Sanchez, who started the frame with a single into right.
Central Arkansas took the lead back, scoring a single run for the sixth-consecutive inning in the seventh. Strong singled, advancing to third as William Hancock set down the bunt. Fregia gunned down to second on the play but the ball skipped into right. Strong scored one hitter later on a sac fly.
The Bears added insurance in the eighth on a sacrifice bunt. Trailing by two, Sam Houston put its first two hitters aboard in the ninth as Miles was hit by the pitch to lead off and Chisolm lined a single into left; however, reliever Brandon Hagerla buckled down, setting down the next three.
Head coach Matt Deggs on the series sweep…
“It was just a tough weekend. It wasn’t our weekend. We didn’t play our best baseball, that’s for sure. We’re going to continue to work to get better. This team will stay together and we’ll continue to grind. It’s a bump in the road and a setback. We embrace the adversity and it’s an opportunity for us to grow as a team, individuals and men. We’ll come out of this a better ballclub.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the offense and current struggles a team…
“We were better. I thought we competed well at the dish. Like I said, we’re trying to do too much right now. That’s a product of the last two weeks. These guys love each other, they want to win and they want to do well. We’re just pressing a little bit. The worm will turn. It always comes back around.”