The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX


March 2, 2014

SHSU BASEBALL — Bearkats are still cruising

Kats blast three homers in victory over Red Raiders

HOUSTON — The Bearkats are making a habit of knocking off nationally ranked teams.

They’re certainly not complaining or planning to stop any time soon.

Upsetting a top-30 team for the third straight game on Saturday, Sam Houston State homered three times and picked off No. 26 Texas Tech 10-6 on the second day of the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park.

“Our mentality and our philosophy is that we are who we are. We could care less if anybody else in the country knows who we are, but if they show up to play us they’re going to find out real quick,” Kats left fielder Luke Plucheck said.

“This tournament is just the epitome of our success the last two years, being able to get an invitation to play here against these quality opponents that have track records for years. I’m really proud for the guys. I’m happy to be here. It’s been great.”

Sam Houston State first baseman Ryan O’Hearn blasted two home runs and right fielder Hayden Simerly put another one into the seats as the Kats made a case to be listed in the polls.

“I’m just super excited and blessed,” O’Hearn said. “I’m lucky to be here and I’m having a good time playing baseball.”

The Kats (10-1 overall) kicked things off with a bang in the top of the first inning.

With one out and the bases clear, O’Hearn belted the first pitch he saw to the opposite field and nearly into the Crawford Boxes camera well in left field.

Sam Houston had a chance to add a few more runs, but the Kats left a couple of runners stranded.

However, Texas Tech (8-3) answered in the home half of the inning.

The Red Raiders had runners on first and second base with two outs when right fielder Adam Kirsch ripped a liner down the third-base line that skipped over the back-handed glove of Kats third baseman Carter Burgess and two runs scored.

That was the first time since last Sunday’s series finale against Dallas Baptist that the Bearkats have trailed.

“Baseball is nine innings,” Plucheck said. “We get that early run from O’Hearn on that great home run to opposite field. Momentum obviously starts off our way, but it’s the game of baseball and it can change instantly and it did.

“You’ve got nine innings to take care of your job. We’re a mature team. We’re all upperclassmen for the first time in three years that Coach (David) Pierce has been here. Two to one’s nothing. Seven to one is nothing to us. If we have a chance to still have at-bats, we have a chance to win the game.”

The Kats made sure that the deficit didn’t last long.

Second baseman Shea Pierce and Plucheck kicked off the top of the second with back-to-back walks, then designated hitter Ryan Farney beat out the throw to first on a sacrifice bunt to load the bases.

Bearkats center fielder Colt Atwood drilled his first pitch into left field for an RBI single that knotted the game at 2 and also kept the bases loaded.

O’Hearn stepped up to the plate and again got a good pitch to hit right away and lofted the ball to deep right field.

The ball fell just short of the right-field wall, but it was good enough to drive Plucheck in on a sacrifice fly to retake the lead.

Following a strikeout by catcher Anthony Azar, Farney scored on a wild pitch.

Then with a runner on third and a full count, Simerly launched the ball into the second row of the right-field seats to cap the five-run inning.

“Right now, we have very good approaches,” Sam Houston State coach David Pierce said. “Nobody’s trying to be the guy or the hero. Everybody’s trying to do their job. With that, it creates a lot of balance in our lineup. If you look at our numbers, the balance of our lineup is there.

“I credit Coach (Sean) Allen and Coach (Philip) Miller, they do such a great job with our guys and they keep them confident. Hitting’s about confidence and we have that right now.”

The Red Raiders cut the deficit to 6-4 with RBI singles in the second and fifth innings.

Bearkats freshman Sam Odom, who relieved starting pitcher Andrew Godail in the third inning, kept Texas Tech from mounting much momentum. Odom, who got the win, allowed just three hits and one run with three strikeouts and one walk in four innings.

“I came out there and I was calm, threw strikes and got out of that first inning with runners on,” said Odom, who played high school ball at Klein. “From there, it was just like I was a starting pitcher. I was just going out there and making my pitches, hoping the defense would pick me up and they did. It was a good day.”

Then O’Hearn broke the game open with another round-tripper.

In the top of the sixth, Atwood led off with a single to right field and O’Hearn rocketed a pitch into the fifth row of the right-field seats.

“I’m pretty excited with what I did,” said O’Hearn. “The one in left field, I didn’t think even had a chance.”

The Bearkats added more runs in the seventh on a two-run single up the middle by Farney.

“I think Sam’s got a good team. That’s the best hitting team we’ve seen so far,” Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock said. “They swung the bats real well. Our guy (starting pitcher Matt Withrow) didn’t command his secondary stuff early or at all and he paid for it.

“We could’ve went to the bullpen — we knew that — and minimized the inning, but you’re trying to develop a Saturday guy. You do what’s right for the long haul and that’s what we did today. They made us pay for it.”

Following Friday’s contest against TCU in which Plucheck robbed what would’ve been an extra base hit and made ESPN’s SportsCenter as the No. 2 play of the day, the speedy senior outfielder did it again Saturday.

Plucheck chased down a liner in left-center and made another nifty diving snag, which caused the Bearkats bench to chant the SportsCenter theme in approval.

“For me, it’s all about being behind my pitcher,” Plucheck said. “Our pitching staff’s incredible. My job is to catch anything I can catch. In my mind, I can catch anything that somebody doesn’t hit out of the park.

“I got lucky yesterday and I got rewarded with SportsCenter, which is really cool. Today, I don’t really know what’s going to happen with this one. It was just me trying to make an out for (relief pitcher) Logan (Boyd).

“He made a mistake and I was right there to pick him up and that’s what this team’s about. We’re behind each other 100 percent.”

Just like the Horned Frogs did in Friday’s contest against the Kats, the Red Raiders found some offense in the bottom of the ninth.

Texas Tech scored twice in the ninth on a run-scoring groundout by designated hitter Matt Broadbent and then shortstop Ryan Long scored on a catching error by Plucheck.

Atwood polished off the game, cleanly catching a high fly ball to center field.

With three straight upsets, the Kats look to essentially win the Houston College Classic when they face 27th-ranked Texas today.

Both teams are the only ones out of the six-team field to have won both of their games at the invitational.

The game is set to begin at 10:05 a.m. at Minute Maid Park.

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Delanise Taylor, center, receives congratulations and hugs from her friends after being named as the new principle of Huntsville Intermediate School at the HISD Board of Trustees meeting on Monday evening.

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