HOUSTON – For a second-straight week, Sam Houston State threw a freshman starting pitcher at No. 12 Houston. Once again, the result proved to be a dominant performance.
Left-hander Kyle Backhus did not allow a hit through four-plus innings and Sam Houston jumped on the Cougars early and often in route to a 12-2 Don Sanders Cup-series clinching victory at Schroeder Park on Tuesday night.
The victory was the 100th career for third-year head coach Matt Deggs, who becomes the fourth coach in Sam Houston Division I history to reach the milestone. It was also the third-straight win in midweek action and marked the most runs the Kats (27-14) have scored against the Cougars (27-13) since plating 18 on March 10, 2009.
Backhus walked five over four innings while fanning three and making way for reliever Mark Hammel (1-0) who picked up his first victory, helping the Kats escape without allowing a run after the Cougars put runners on first and second with no outs in the fifth inning.
Colin Cameron secured the save, tossing the final 3 2-3 innings, permitting just two hits and one run while striking out seven and walking one.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sam Houston hung a three-spot in the second sending eight hitters to the plate while chasing Houston starter Brayson Hurdsman (2-2) from the game. Andrew Fregia (hit by pitch) and Robie Rojas (walk) reached to begin the frame and with one out, Josh Biles was struck by the pitch to load the bases.
Making his first start, designated hitter Cross Austin fought off a 0-2 pitch into right center for his second RBI on the sacrifice fly. Taylor Beene and Bryce Johnson connected on consecutive RBI singles, putting Sam Houston on top 3-0.
Two inning later, the Bearkats again put the first two on as Hunter Hearn lined a first-pitch single into right and Biles drew a five-pitch walk. Austin added another productive at-bat, moving the runners into scoring position on a groundout, allowing Hearn to score on a passed ball.
Beene followed, laying down a sacrifice squeeze bunt on a 1-2 count, plating Biles and providing Sam Houston a 5-0 advantage, matching the total the Kats had jumped out on against the Cougars a week prior at Constellation Field.
Backhus ran into trouble for the first time in the fifth. The lefty permitted a leadoff walk and plunked his second hitter. The Bearkats went to the pen as Hammel came in and cleaned up, inducing a 5-4-3 double play and groundout to keep the Cougars off the board.
The Bearkats took the momentum into the sixth, capitalizing on a one-out double from Biles, his first of the season. Clayton Harp came on to pinch run, stealing third and scoring as pinch-hitter Blake Chisolm hit a high chopper to shortstop, beating the throw at first for the 6-1 lead.
Houston answered with a solo homer from Jake Scheiner in the sixth but the Cougars broke things open for good in the seventh, grabbing one on an RBI groundout for Fregia before Harp connected on a two-out, two-run triple off the wall in left center for a 9-1 advantage.
Sam Houston unloaded for three runs again in the eighth courtesy of back-to-back triples from Beene and Johnson before Riley McKnight belted his first home run of the season, a two-run shot to up the lead to 12-1.
The Bearkats return home after a season-long nine-game road trip, facing off against first-place McNeese. Sam Houston heads into the weekend 3 ½ games back of the lead, having played three fewer games than the Cowboys. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Head coach Matt Deggs on the victory…
“It all started on the mound with Kyle Backhus. He’s been a little up and down but has a really good arm and great future. He got us into the fifth. He set a great tone and allowed us to score. The pack was functioning very well tonight. We had some really competitive at bats. We did a great job responding after a tough weekend. We embrace the adversity.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on winning the Sanders Cup and recording his 100th win…
“I guess that’s a pretty special night. There is not a better man than Don Sanders. He has given so much. The Sanders family has given so much for both universities. He means a lot to both programs. It’s not about me, it’s about my best friends I get to coach with every day and these kids who have poured their heart and soul into this program. It’s not just about me. It’s about the team.”
Shortstop Taylor Beene on the victory…
“Coming out here, we just wanted to focus on relaxing and getting better. They are a great ballclub. It’s no easy win coming in here. We knew coming in if we win, we’d get that trophy. They don’t pass out trophies at this time so we wanted it.”
Starting pitcher Kyle Backhus on his performance…
“I was just trying to get in there and fill up the zone. I had some walks but our motto is ‘so what?’ To get the bats going … I felt like I had some pressure on me but when we score runs that helps.”