By Cheval John
Reporter, Vallano Media
Sam Houston State took the series from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders with a 5-3 win on Sunday.
The win would have given the Kats a three-game sweep, but the Islanders had something to say about that when they rallied with two runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 5 and eventually won in 11 innings by the score of 6-5 in Saturday's matchup.
They're a tough team,” Bearkat coach David Pierce said. “They're resilient and they fight to the end.”
The Islanders showed their resiliency in game two of the series.
The Bearkats (2-1 Southland Conference, 12-11 overall) had a taken a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth on back-to-back RBI singles by third baseman Kevin Miller and pinch-hitter Shea Pierce.
After second baseman Ryan Farney's single to load the bases, Sam Houston had a chance to blow the game wide open.
But reliever Matt Danton struck out center fielder Colt Atwood and left fielder Luke Plucheck to get out of the inning.
It seemed as those two runs was going to hold up.
However, A&M-Corpus Christi (1-2 Southland Conference play, 12-11 overall) was not going away easy.
Left fielder Jordan Lee started things in the ninth with a walk and advanced to second on a single up the middle by Dominic Lopez, who came in earlier as a pinch-hitter.
Both runners advanced to second and third, respectively on a ground out by Brantley with the possibility of tying the game.
With two outs, second baseman Cody Stephens hit a two-run single that scored both Lee and Lopez to tie the game at 5.
“We had an opportunity to blow the game wide open,” Pierce said. “If we just put the ball in play, at least we would have gotten another run.”
The Islanders smelled blood and felt that it was only a matter of time before they took the lead. theirs for the taking.
That time arrived in the top of the eleventh inning when Stephens lined a two out, go ahead RBI single up the middle that scored Lee from second to make it 6-5.
Lee again led off with a single and advanced to second base on a ground out by Russell Vaughan.
“What we need to do right now is to quit worrying about failure,” Pierce said. “We trying to do way too much. It's a lot of mental stuff right now that is not allowing us to play the game like we're capable of.”
The Bearkats heard the message loud and clear as they fought hard and won the rubber match 5-3.
Starting pitcher Caleb Smith held the Islanders at bay as he went 6 2/3 innings with seven strike outs and gave up two runs on four hits.
Reliever Michael Burchett pitched 2 1/3 for his first save of the season.
“Caleb (Smith) had some good stuff,” Pierce said. “We were able to get deep enough with him and Michael (Burchett) finished it.”
Sam Houston's offense came alive at key moments in the game.
Short stop Carter Burgess went 3 for 3 with an RBI.
“Carter (Burgess) has been consistent,” Pierce said. “Hitting is contagious and what we're trying to do is to get them to free their minds, relax and get quality at-bats. The only way they can do that is to be aggressive.”
With the Bearkats leading 1-0, right fielder Romeo Cortina, who only went 1 for 4, had a clutch two run single in the bottom of the fourth inning that increased the lead to 3-0.
“The one thing about Romeo is he's very free spirited and when he plays like that, he's a very good player,” Pierce said.
The Islanders was stirring up some trouble in the top of the seventh inning when Gonzales led off with a single up the middle and advanced to third on a double down the left field line by Brad Porras.
Gozales scored on a fielder's choice play to cut the lead to 3-1.
Despite an outstanding catch by third baseman Miller in foul territory for the second out, Porras scored from third to pull within 3-2.
The Bearkats responded with two runs in the bottom of the seventh to extend the lead to 5-2 on back-to-back RBI singles by Burgess and Miller.
Plucheck issued a walk with one out and stole second base to put himself in scoring position. After Azar flied out for the second out, Plucheck advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on the single.
Third baseman Brad Porras scored on a sacrifice fly by Vaughan to cut the lead to 5-3 in the top of the ninth.
But that was as much as they would muster as Burchett got the final out to seal the victory.
“The key I think against them (Islanders) is getting guys with two strikes,” Pierce said. “Strike one is so big against them because they're very aggressive early.”
Sam Houston looks to take their moment on Tuesday when they host Rice at Don Sanders Stadium at 6:30 p.m.