HOUSTON – Sam Houston State's extra-inning woes continued as the Bearkats were unable to cash in on key opportunities, stranding 12 runners in a 2-1, 14-inning loss to Houston Baptist in the three-game opener on Friday afternoon at Husky Field.
The loss spoiled another tremendous start from Heath Donica, who appeared on his way to a complete-game victory before the Huskies struck for one in the ninth, sending the game into an eventual 4-hour, 15-minute affair that saw Sam Houston drops its fourth extra-inning game in as many outings this year.
The right-hander scattered five Houston Baptist (23-21, 15-10 SLC) hits, permitting one run while walking five and striking out four. Sam Houston (32-18, 16-9 SLC) managed just seven hits, five coming between Robie Rojas and Blake Chisolm, falling three games back of league-leader McNeese.
Riley Cooper (0-3) drew the loss, exiting the game with one out in the 14th inning. Dakota Mills entered as Sam Houston's fourth reliever, inducing a grounder for the second out before Blake Thomas sent a first-pitch single into center, plating Tyler Depreta-Johnson to end it.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Houston Baptist put its leadoff runner aboard in each of the first four innings, only to see Donica work out of it unscathed including turning a 1-6-3 double play in the third.
In the opening frame, the Huskies' Zane Otten reached third with two down and attempted to take home as a breaking ball skipped away from Rojas. The catcher recovered quickly, grabbing the ball and taking it himself to block Otto from reaching the plate.
Unfortunately, the story was similar for the Bearkats, who put runners on in each of the first four frames. HBU catcher Blake Thomas threw out a pair of Kats swiping second during the stretch while starting pitcher Addison Russ fanned two consecutive with runners on first and second in the second.
Chisolm led off the fifth, driving a 1-2 pitch inside the first base bag for a double but once again, Addison settled down. The right-hander used 11 pitches to record three consecutive outs including a pair of strikeouts to keep Sam Houston at bay.
Taylor Beene rebounded from a 0-2 count to lift a leadoff single into center to begin the sixth before advancing to second on a Lance Miles sacrifice bunt. However, for the fourth time in six innings, the Bearkats stranded a runner at the bag following a pair of groundouts.
Sam Houston, which entered the game as the Southland Conference leader in double played turned, used its second of the game to erase a one-out HBU single in the sixth. The inning-ending twin killing helped the Bearkats carry the momentum into the seventh.
Sam Houston used patience at the plate to work three walks as Rojas, Hearn and McKnight all worked free passes. With Bryce Johnson coming to hit, the Huskies turned to reliever Zach Carter with one out, but his pitch got away from Thomas, allowing Rojas to come home, giving the Kats a 1-0 advantage.
Down to its final two outs in the ninth, the Huskies worked consecutive walks and used a RBI single up the middle from Jake Pulcheon to plate Brandon Britz from second. A throwing error moved the runners to second and third on the play but following an intentional walk to load the bases, Donica induced a 4-3 double play, sending the Bearkats into their fourth extra-inning affair.
After a 1-2-3 frame for reliever Dominic Robinson in the 10th, Sam Houston appeared poised to get a run across in the 11th. Fregia reached on an error to lead off the frame and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Then, Harp drew his third walk of the game.
Rojas advanced the runners into scoring position with a sac bunt but with one out, reliever Zach Carter (6-3) fanned two straight, stranding the pair. Carter kept the HBU bullpen intact, permitting just three hits in 7 2-3 innings, walking two and striking out three to earn the win.
Sam Houston resumes its final road series of the year Saturday, taking on HBU in the middle game at 1 p.m. from Husky Stadium. The Bearkats will send left-hander Kyle Backhus (3-3, 3.50 ERA) to the mound to face the Huskies' Christian Thames (6-3, 4.23 ERA).
Head coach Matt Deggs on the series-opening loss…
“Heath Donica pitched his heart out. I thought we pitched the ball extremely wall today. He got an opportunity to get a CG shutout. We're going to send him back out there every time for that. It just didn't work out today. We did a great job battling. We've got to be able to finish the plays and get big hits. Tomorrow is a new day. This team played their heart out today. We'll bounce back and respond.”