By Cheval John
Reporter, Vallano Media
Sam Houston State head baseball coach David Pierce believes that in order to win, you must have timely hits, great defense and solid pitching.
The Bearkats got all of those as they clipped the wings of top 25 ranked Rice Owls 9-3 on Tuesday night at Don Sanders Stadium in Huntsville, TX.
The win completes the series sweep of the Owls and it also adds to the resume of the Bearkats with wins over the University of Texas Longhorns and the Baylor Bears.
“It's easy to lay down, especially during conference play and don't really care that much,” center fielder Colt Atwood said about playing mid-week games. “Beating Rice is always a fun thing. The key is not to overlook it and it counts toward our RPI.”
Sam Houston's offense was clicking on all cylinders as put together 15 hits.
The Bearkats (13-11) their short game to put pressure on the Owls' defense and have opportunities to score runs.
Third baseman Kevin Miller went 3 for 4 with an RBI and scored two runs.
Atwood also went 3 for 4 with a RBI.
We send him (Colt Atwood) to the ninth spot to get well,” Pierce jokingly said. “A lot of times, you do that to take the pressure off a guy that tries to do too much. He's a great player for us.”
The Bearkat offense was complimented by a solid performance from starting pitcher Tyler Eppler.
Eppler went six innings and got his second win of the season.
He kept a Rice (18-9) offense at bay as he was able to get out of jams and gave the Bearkats an opportunity to score runs.
“Tyler (Eppler) was really outstanding,” Pierce said. “He had some traffic and was able to pitch out of it. He gave his team a chance to win.”
Rice was aiming to strike first in the top of the third and fifth innings.
First baseman Skyler Ewing led off the third with an infield single and advanced to second on a ground out by center fielder Leon Byrd.
With two runners on after shortstop Ford Stainback issued a walk, Ewing tried to score from second on a single to center from Keenan Cook.
But Atwood threw a strike and gunned down Ewing at home plate for the second out.
“When your in outfield, you want that play to be hit to you,” Atwood said. “It's always fun to get the chance to throw somebody out.
Despite a walk to second baseman Christian Stringer, Eppler got Geoff Perrott to ground into a fielder's choice to get out of the jam.
Byrd doubled to left field with one out in the fifth and advanced to third on a ground out by Stainback for the second out.
But the Owls couldn't capitalized as Cook struck out to end the threat.
The Bearkats took advantage and scored in the bottom of the fifth inning for a 1-0 lead on a suicide squeeze play that allowed Miller to score from third.
Cortina was credited with the infield single and RBI on the play.
The Owls was looking tie the game in the top of the sixth inning when Perrott issued a walk with one out and advanced to second on a single by designated hitter Michael Aquino.
However, Eppler settled down and got consecutive fly outs by third baseman Connor Teykl and right fielder Michael Ratterree to get out of hot water.
That's where the fun really started as the Bearkats exploded for four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to extend the lead to 5-0.
Catcher Anthony Azar started the party with a two run triple to left center and a batter later, Miller lined an RBI single to right field that made it 4-0.
An error by Teykl on a routine ground ball allowed the fifth run to score for the Bearkats.
Rice avoided a shut out when in the top of the eighth Skyler Ewing hit a two out, two run single to left field in the top of the eighth to cut the lead to 5-2.
The Bearkats opened the flood gates on the Owls as they scored four more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to increase the lead to 9-2.
“I really, really credit assistant coach Sean Allen on the way the offense produced,” Pierce said. “We really did a great job in our short game tonight that created the two big innings.”
Sam Houston looks to keep their momentum going as they return to Southland Conference play as they travel to face Stephen F. Austin in a three-game series, beginning on Thursday.
“We really need to keep having good at-bats and our pitchers need to continue throwing strikes,” Atwood said.