Two nights after a disappointing loss to Rice where the theme was one of missed opportunities, Sam Houston State made sure that trend stopped in its tracks.

The Bearkats plated three of four runners in scoring position in the first two frames, leading the way for a 5-3 victory over Texas-Pan American on Friday night at the Bearkat Baseball Complex.

SHSU (5-3) appeared to have the ballgame wrapped up, leading 5-2 after eight. But relief pitcher Zach Golden began the ninth and gave up a single before being lifted for Brandon Alford. The Broncs’ Jason Buhagiar followed with a pinch-hit single, putting runners at first and second base with nobody out.

Alford managed to strike out the next hitter but surrendered a single to Leighton Autrey, loading the bases. Then with one down and the go-ahead run at the plate, Alford struggled to find the strike zone, walking in a run. The Bearkat lead was now cut to two, and Stephen Price was called upon to slam the door and he delivered, coaxing a ground ball to short to end the game for his first save of the season.

“Winning those close ball games like that is always rewarding,” SHSU head coach Chris Rupp said. “Our pitchers in that last inning did a good job, I have no complaints. Golden got the big double-play ball to end the eighth, Alford did a good job, and of course, Price came in, threw strikes and got the save.”

Bearkat starter Tim Gray (2-0) pitched another seven solid innings, giving up two runs, none earned, off three base hits, while striking out six. Gray allowed two runners to reach in the first, then shut down the Broncs, stringing together four perfect innings.

“I felt good out there, real relaxed thanks to that week off after my last start,” Gray said. “I just threw strikes and let the guys play defense behind me. I have been working on hitting my spots with coach at practice and it is showing in the game.”

Gray has hit his spots to the tune of 21 strikeouts and one walk in 19 innings of work this season.

The Bearkats tacked on to their three-run lead in the third, when Dustin Martin belted a line drive which sailed just over the right-field wall to put the Kats up by four. It was Martin’s third long ball on the season.

SHSU got on the board in the first with a two-out single up the middle by Karl Krailo to plate Greg O’Neil. Aaron Cook and Daniel Cox scored in the second on a balk and a Tyson Mire RBI-single, respectively.

The Bearkats will play game two of this three-game set with Texas-Pan American (4-8) today at 3 p.m.

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