SUGAR LAND – The top-seeded Sam Houston State Bearkats could not hold on to a late lead as the No. 8 New Orleans Privateers stunned the Kats with a 4-3 win in 10 innings in the opening round of the Southland Conference Tournament at Constellation Field.
Sam Houston (38-19) held a 3-1 lead after seven strong innings from starter Seth Ballew, but the Privateers (27-30) scored twice in the top of the eighth and then again in the 10th to pull off the upset.
The Kats will now fall into the elimination portion of the bracket and will face the loser of No. 4 Houston Baptist and No. 5 Central Arkansas at noon on Thursday afternoon. Sam Houston will now need to become the first tournament team since UCA in 2013 to drop its tournament opener and run the table the rest of the way to claim a third consecutive tournament title.
Blake Chisolm had a pair of hits at the plate, but also suffered the first loss on the hill in his Bearkat career on Wednesday. He worked out of a ninth-inning jam to help the Kats move into extra innings, but allowed the eventual winning run on a sacrifice fly in the 10th to Cody Ducote.
He was the only Bearkat to finish with a multi-hit game on a day that was tough against UNO lefty John Michael Stephens who struck out six and scattered eight hits in his 7.0 innings of work. John Barr picked up his sixth win for the Privateers with 2.0 scoreless innings before Reeves Martin earned his eighth save of the year, stranding the tying run on base in the 10th.
It spoiled a great day by Ballew who took a no-decision despite going 7.0 innings himself in the start. He scattered six hits and struck out a pair on 92 pitches before giving way to the bullpen.
The middle of the UNO order was the catalyst all day for the Privateers with the trio of Pearce Howard, Oynn Veillon and Beau Bratton accounting for six of UNO’s nine hits and all four of their runs in the game.
UNO struck first in the top of the third on the strength of a two-out rally. After Ballew had retired each of the first two hitters of the inning, Pearce Howard kept the inning going with a bloop single to left field and Orynn Veillon followed that up by tugging a double into left field that allowed Howard to score all the way from first and put the Privateers up 1-0.
But the Bearkats had an answer their half of the third, doing so with their own two-out surge. They nearly squandered a leadoff double by Chisolm as he still stood on third with two outs before Hunter Hearn shot an RBI double into the right-field corner to tie it up at 1-1. One batter later, Clayton Harp lined a single into right field that scored Hearn and pushed the Kats ahead 2-1.
Sam Houston squandered a great chance to score in the fifth when Chisolm and Mac Odom each reached to open the inning, but they did not waste a chance an inning later. Eric Bohnert got the scoring frame going with a leadoff double and two batters later came in to score on a sacrifice fly by Riley McKnight to give the Kats a 3-1 advantage.
Ballew logged seven frames for the Kats before giving way to Mikolajchak to open the eighth. The Sam Houston reliever got the first two outs of the inning before running into trouble, starting with a double to left field by Howard. He then walked Veillon before Beau Bratton slammed a two-run triple into right field on the first pitch he saw to tie the game.
The Kats worked out of a jam in the ninth to leave runners in the corners, but again were not so fortunate an inning later. A leadoff walk to Howard was followed by a seeing-eye single by Veillon that quickly put two runners on. Veillon then beat out a force out at second base one batter later with Bratton at the plate to load the bases with nobody out. Brad Demco was able to get the first out of the inning without a run scoring, but then Ducote lofted a fly ball to right field deep enough to score Howard with the go-ahead run.
Demco would work out of the inning with no further damage, but the one run would be enough. Sam Houston had one more chance in the bottom of the 10th, getting the potential tying run to second base after a two-out walk to Hearn and a steal of second by pinch runner Darien Simms; however, Martin was able to outlast Harp and get a strikeout for the game’s final out.