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May 22, 2014

2014 SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE BASEBALL TOURNAMENT — Sticks lead Kats past Lamar

Seven-run fourth inning spurs rally for Bearkats

HUNTSVILLE — The Bearkats dug out of an early hole and put up seven runs in the fourth inning to beat Lamar 10-4 in the first round of the Southland Tournament. Sam Houston (41-15) will face Southeastern Louisiana (34-23) in the second round today at 4 p.m.

Sam Houston scored seven runs on six hits and a Cardinal error in the fourth inning to rally from a 3-0 deficit. Lamar scored three runs in the top of the first on five hits.

“We’ve played Lamar four times and they’ve done the same thing all four times,” head coach David Pierce said. “They’re very aggressive early in games and they’ve executed well. I think Dylan Ebbs did a good job of giving us a chance. Our guys had some great at bats in that fourth inning.”

The Cardinals started the scoring with three straight singles to open the game. After a fly out to left field, another single loaded the bases. A sacrifice fly to center field scored the second run and another single made the score 3-0. Lamar scored a total of 14 first-inning runs in four games against SHSU this season.

Bearkat center fielder Colt Atwood had the only two hits for SHSU through the first three innings while Lamar had eight singles over that stretch.

“They are an incredibly good-hitting team,” Atwood said. “They are very good at hitting the ball down and that’s where we throw it. It’s very tough to not panic but we just stayed resilient and kept having good bats.”

After being held down for the first three innings, the Kats exploded in the fourth.

Left fielder Luke Plucheck reached on an error to start the fourth and moved to third on a single by catcher Anthony Azar. First baseman Ryan O’Hearn drove in the first run with an infield single to second base.

Third baseman Carter Burgess reached on a bunt but O’Hearn was tagged out on the bases for the first out. Shortstop Corey Toups walked to load the bases and second baseman Shea Pierce was hit by a pitch to make the score 3-2.

Designated hitter Ryan Farney gave the Bearkats the lead with a two-run single up the middle. Farney was making just his third start in the last month of the season.

Right fielder Travis Lee reached on a fielder’s choice, extending the inning on what could have been a double play ball.

Atwood drove in Pierce from third base with his third single of the game. Plucheck then legged out an infield single to load the bases back up, forcing a pitching change by Lamar.

Azar blew the game open with a two-run double to deep left field, capping off a seven-run fourth inning.

Lamar got one run right back in the top of the fifth. The Cardinals led off the inning with a pair of singles that ended Ebbs’ day on the mound.

Nolan Riggs walked the first batter he faced out of the bullpen to load the bases. The junior righty allowed a run to cross the plate but Toups turned a slick double play, tagging the runner going to third and throwing out the batter.

Riggs tossed three scoreless innings and allowed just two hits and one walk. He picked up his third win of the season and lowered his ERA to 1.38 for the season.

“They have a great lineup,” Riggs said. “I had a little trouble keeping the ball down and didn’t have my best stuff but I pitched through it and the team got a great win today. It was a little intimidating but I just had to trust in my stuff and trust the defense behind me. Our bullpen has been great for us lately and hopefully it stays like that.”

The Kats tacked on two more runs in the seventh. Plucheck and Azar each singled to start the inning and Plucheck moved to third on an errant throw by the Cardinal catcher.

O’Hearn ripped an RBI single past the first baseman to score Plucheck. Burgess scored Azar from third on a sacrifice fly to make the score 9-4.

Sam Houston scored one more in the eighth after Hayden Simerly led off the inning with a walk and scored on an RBI single by Azar. The Bearkat backstop and Southland Player of the Year went 4-for-5 with 3 RBIs.

Andrew Godail pitched the final two innings and allowed just one hit, while keeping the Cardinals off the board. The junior lefty struck out three of the eight batters he faced.

With the win, the Bearkats move into the winner’s bracket and get to play against the Lions at 4 p.m.

“Southeastern Louisiana is playing really well right now and they’re a good, tough-hitting baseball club. I think it will be a good baseball game,” Pierce added.

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All proceeds from the Team Big George Wiffleball Tournament will go to George Ancira, above, to support him in his battle with cancer.

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