HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats never led until their final at-bat on Friday night, but scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to walk off with an 8-7 win over Stephen F. Austin in the series opener at Don Sanders Stadium.
The Bearkats (24-11, 12-1 SLC) trailed the ‘Jacks (12-21, 4-9 SLC) by a 7-4 margin with three outs to go, but got an RBI single by Blake Chisolm to cut the lead to two before Ben Haefner shot a single back up the middle to pick up two RBI and tie the game.
But, at the end of the play, the throw by SFA center fielder Nick Daley got away and allowed pinch runner Mac Odom to score the winning run and allow the Kats to walk off with a win for the fourth time this season.
Chisolm just missed winning the game on his own one batter prior to Haefner’s single, launching a potential game-winning grand slam to left field off of SFA reliever Tyler Starks; however, the ball hit the top of the fence and bounced back into play, scoring just one run and keeping the sacks loaded for Haefner.
It capped a three-RBI night for Chisolm in a game where the Kats were outhit 13-11 by the ‘Jacks. Riley McKnight, Eric Bohnert and Hunter Hearn all had a pair of hits each, including Bohnert’s first career home run in the fourth inning.
Dakota Mills struck out the only batter he faced in relief, which was enough to be credited with his second win of the year. Meanwhile, Starks fell to 2-3 for SFA after allowing all four runs in just a third of an inning of relief.
Mills’ night was the cap to an otherwise solid night from the Bearkat bullpen, which allowed just one run on two hits in 3.0 innings of work. The Kats did not issue a walk in the game as a staff, but SFA was able to get six of its seven runs on 11 hits against SHSU starter Nick Mikolajchak.
Five of those runs came in the third when they used five singles and a pair of hit batters to go up 5-0. The Kats answered right back with a pair of two-out runs when Chisolm brought in both Hearn and Clayton Harp with a single off of SFA starter Dru Dziedzic.
The teams traded runs in the fourth with SFA’s coming on an RBI double by Josh Evans the Bearkat tally coming from Bohnert’s solo homer to make it a 6-3 game. Mikolajchak then retired six of the final eight batters he faced with the only two base runners coming on a pair of errors before Brad Demco, Riley Cooper and Landon Ausley combined to put up zeros in both the seventh and the eighth.
Sam Houston got another run back on a two-out RBI single from Jaxxon Grisham in the sixth, but the ‘Jacks got it back in the top of the ninth on an RBI double by Skylar Black after SFA had been held without a hit since the fourth frame.
That set things up for the bottom of the inning, one which opened up with a ringing triple by McKnight to greet Starks. Walks to both Jordan Cannon and Hearn quickly put the Kats in business with one out and brought up Chisolm who got ahead in the count 2-0 before just missing a grand slam off of the top of the left-field wall.
That hit scored McKnight and kept the bases loaded for Haefner who came through with the game-winning single to send the Kats off as winners.
The Kats will try to clinch the series on Saturday in the second game against SFA with first pitch set for 3 p.m. at The Don. The game can be watched on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
Coach Matt Deggs on Friday’s win over SFA …
“I’m real proud of the guys. We’ve been through a lot in the last week and it’s been a tough road for us, but we’ve stayed together and stayed grinding. It doesn’t matter who you are playing, the name across the jersey doesn’t matter, you still have to play good baseball at this level. They (SFA) came out and got to us early, but I thought we did a good job of just playing our game and not panicking.
Deggs on the pitching and snapping a three-game losing skid …
Miko did a good job of grinding for us and then Brad (Demco) did a really nice job and got it to Ausley to an inning and then Cooper and Mills. I thought we pitched it extremely well tonight. I thought we really scrapped and competed at the plate. If you look at the three-game losing streak, they are all the same game. They are right there or us to win. These kids are really, really good and they’ve shown it over the last three years, finding an excuse to win.
Deggs on the final inning …
Ben (Haefner) came up with a gigantic hit and I thought Chisolm’s ball was gone. His ball hit the very top of the wall and when that happens it is kind of like ‘here we go again’, but Ben stepped right back up and then Mac’s speed forced the issue and the ball kicked away to our advantage.