By Cheval John
Reporter, Vallano Media
Third baseman Kevin Miller picked the Southland Conference Baseball Tournament in Sugar Land, Texas to hit his first home run of the season.
With Sam Houston State needing an insurance run after McNeese State cutting the lead to 4-3,
Miller's three-run home run sparked a four run eighth that lifted the Bearkats to a 8-3 to put them in the winners bracket of the tournament.
The home run was only Miller's fourth of his career.
I’m not usually one to get under the ball that much, I guess I missed it you could say, I was trying to drive Colt (Atwood) in," Miller said to Southland.org. “I was trying to get on top of it and drive it through the infield. I’m happy it went out. Whenever they walked (Anthony) Azar, I was just trying to do my job and poke it to the outfield.
In addition to Miller's blast, the Bearkats' (37-18) offense produced timely hits when it was needed.
Short stop Carter Burgess went 2 for 3 with an RBI.
His double in the bottom of the fifth put him in position to score the first of three runs that made it 4-1 run on a RBI single by right fielder Ryan O'Hearn.
After O'Hearn advanced to second on a fielder's choice play, utility player Jessie Plumlee drove him in on a single and Colt Atwood capped it off with a RBI single of his own.
Tyler Eppler went seven strong innings and got the win.
Bearkat head coach David Pierce said to Southland.org that the defense by infielder Miller, Burgess was the best he had seen in a long time and it gave Eppler the confidence to pound the strike zone.
“It makes him throw strikes and rely on the defense and Tyler did that,” Pierce said. “His confidence was great and he did a great job of pounding the zone and our defense did a great job while we got some timely hits early and broke it open with Kevin’s home run.”
In addition a strong outing by Eppler, reliever Jason Simms threw two innings and got the save.
Though McNeese had opportunities to either tie or take the lead, the Bearkat pitching staff kept the Cowboys (23-30) at bay and got out of jams that put the offense in position to extend the lead.
After the Cowboys issued back-to-back walks with one out, they cut the lead to 4-3 on a RBI single by designated hitter Michael Sullivan.
With the tying run on second, Simms got left fielder Jackson Gooch to ground into a double play to end the threat.
That gave the Bearkats an opportunity to open the flood gates on the Cowboys as they exploded for four runs in the bottom of the eighth to extend the lead to 8-3.
Plumlee started the fun when he hit a shot to left field for a double.
He advanced to third when catcher Cameron Toole tried to pick him off at second, but threw the ball into the outfield.
After Atwood's ground out, they intentionally walked Azar to set a double play scenario with Miller coming to the plate.
That intially backfired as Miller blasted a three-run home run over the left field wall that put the dagger in the hearts of the Cowboys.
A few batters later with the bases loaded, Burgess drew a walk that scored the Bearkat fourth run of the inning.
Simms finished off in the ninth to seal the win for the Kats.
With the victory, Sam Houston will await the winner of matchup between Lamar and Southeastern Lousiana that is back in action after close to a two hour weather delay.
The game is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday.