HOUSTON – The Sam Houston State Bearkats needed a pair of wins on Friday and got just what the doctor ordered, sweeping both ends of a doubleheader from Houston Baptist at Husky Field.
With the wins the Bearkats (22-25, 13-13 SLC) could return for Saturday's series finale having already clinched a berth in next week's Southland Conference Tournament, but would assure themselves of a berth by completing the series sweep. Meanwhile, the Huskies (17-25, 8-18 SLC) were eliminated from tournament contention with their loss in Game 1.
Sam Houston did it in different fashions, getting a complete-game shutout from Tayler Atkinson for a 3-0 win in the opener before erupting for a season-high 17 hits in an 11-4 victory in the nightcap.
The Kats will wrap up the series when they go for the sweep of the Huskies at noon on Saturday.
Game 1 – Box Score
Sam Houston 3, Houston Baptist 0
Atkinson held HBU to just three hits in tossing her fourth shutout of the season in the day's opener. The Bearkats only finished with five hits in the game, two coming from Ashley Goetz, but managed to scratch out a trio of runs, which was more than enough for Atkinson who did not allow a runner past second base.
She picked up her ninth win of the season with the effort, while HBU's Emily Mueller fell to 8-15 despite going the full 7.0 innings as well.
It took just two innings for the Bearkats to stake themselves to a 1-0 lead, striking in the top of the second. Hannah Marino opened the inning by drawing a walk and was immediately bunted into scoring position by Codi Carpenter. Two batters later Goetz lined a single into shallow right field, just off the glove of Demi Janak at second base, scoring Marino from second to put the Kats ahead.
Atkinson worked around a leadoff double in the bottom of the second and the Bearkat offense rewarded her with another run of cushion in the top of the third. After Samantha Belongia reached on a two-base error to open the inning, she found herself on third after a successful sacrifice bunt from Megan McDonald. Tiffany Thompson then brought her in on the first pitch she saw from Mueller, flaring a single into right field to score Belongia.
HBU got something going in its half of the fourth as back-to-back walks to Nicole Shedd and Libby Brown had a pair of runners on base with just one out. But the Bearkat defense had Atkinson's back as McDonald snagged a hard-hit line drive from Brooke Bushman for the second out and Goetz tracked down a bid for extra bases by Megan Hiers near the left-field line to strand both runners.
Sam Houston gave Atkinson some more breathing room in the sixth when Marino blasted a 3-2 pitch out to left-center field with one away for her fourth homer of the year, pushing the advantage to 3-0.
Game 2 – Box Score
Sam Houston 11, Houston Baptist 4
In the second game of the day, the Sam Houston offense took two innings to get going, but then got rolling in a big way. The Kats scored in each of the game's final five frames with five players finishing with at least two hits on their way to a season-high 17 hits as a team.
The 17 hits were the most by the Bearkats this season, and the most since they picked up 17 against Jacksonville on Feb. 20, 2015.
Thompson had the biggest game of all, finishing 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBI. Meanwhile Tori Koerselman rebounded from an 0-for-3 effort in Game 1 to go 3-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored. In all, the Kats got at least one hit from every starter while the 2-3-4 spots in the lineup combined for eight of the team's hit total.
Lindsey McLeod was the beneficiary of the offensive outburst as she earned her 10th win of the season, although early on it did not look as though she would need it. The sophomore right hander struck out six Huskies in the first four innings and did not allow a hit through first 4.1 frames she worked before HBU finally cracked the scoreboard in the fifth.
Atkinson also worked two-thirds of an inning before Jordan Franks came in to toss the final 1.2 frames to close it out.
Sam Houston had just one hit in its first two innings, but broke through in a big way in the third, scoring four times on five hits. Emily Bounds got it started, banging a leadoff double off of the left field wall. Two batters later McDonald lined an RBI single to right field and Thompson followed that up by blasting a two-run homer out to left field. The second double of the game from Koerselman followed, as did a single by Marino, setting up Megan Crosby who roped an RBI single into the left-field corner to give the Kats a 4-0 lead.
The Kats added another run in their half of the fourth, getting things started when Belongia beat out an infield single with one out in the inning. She moved to second on a grounder by McDonald and Thompson picked up her third RBI of the game one batter later, bringing Belongia home with a single that hit the third-base bag.
One inning later the Bearkats tacked on three more runs on four hits, pushing their lead to 8-0. Each of the first three hitters of the inning reached base with Carpenter loading the sacks with her first hit of the game. Crosby then got a run home by working a four-pitch walk and Goetz got one of her own on a sacrifice fly to center field that scored pinch runner Ashley Kopps. Bounds' second hit of the day re-loaded the bases before Kaitlynn Dawson got in on the action with a pinch-hit RBI single just inside the right-field line.
McLeod cruised through her first four frames with six strikeouts in that span, but finally ran into some trouble in the bottom of the fifth. After Libby Brown flied out to open the inning, Shae Bibby became just the second Husky of the day to reach base as she worked a five-pitch walk. One batter later Megan Hiers slammed her second home run of the year over the left-field fence for the first HBU hit of the game, breaking up the shutout in the process as the Huskies cut the lead to 8-2.
But the Bearkats answered with their fourth straight scoring inning in the sixth, with a little help from the HBU defense. After Thompson reached on a two-base error to open the inning, Koerselman bunted her way on base for her third hit of the game; however, she alertly broke for second after reaching first and the Huskies' throw deflected into center field. The throw not only allowed Thompson to score from third, but also Koerselman who raced all the way home to push the Bearkat lead back up to 10-2.
After HBU's Nicole Shedd sent a solo home run out to center field in the bottom of the sixth to extend the game, the Kats got the run back in the top of the seventh. Singles by Goetz and Belongia put a pair of runners on base, and Thompson picked up her fourth RBI of the game when she lined a single to left field to score Goetz and make it and 11-3 game.