GoBearkats.com Seeking to become only the third number one seed to win the Southland Conference baseball tournament title in the event’s 20-year history, regular season champion Sam Houston State stumbled Wednesday afternoon as the Bearkats fell 9-2 to No. 8 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Bobcat Ball Park.
The Islanders exploded for four runs in the first inning while Southland “Newcomer-of-the-Year” and all-league pitcher Daniel Minor kept SHSU hitters off-balance all day. In eight innings, Minor (10-3) gave up eight hits but only three came with less than two outs. The Bearkats left eight runners stranded.
“He has been very consistent all year,” SHSU head coach David Pierce said. “I think he is the best pitcher in the league and he proved it here today.”
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (24-31) will face No. 2 seed UT-Arlington at 4 p.m. Thursday in the winner’s bracket while Sam Houston (36-19) takes on McNeese State at 9 a.m. in an elimination game. UTA defeated McNeese 6-2 Wednesday.
Islander shortstop Eric Weiss and first baseman Brad Porras bookended the game with lead-off home runs to left in the first and ninth innings.
Weiss’s homer started a four-run first inning as third baseman Weston Montgomery brought in two more runs with a single to left field. Right fielder Jordan Lee added the fourth run with an RBI triple to right center.
Sam Houston got one run back in the bottom of the first inning as center fielder Colt Atwood led off with a double and scored on a single to center by third baseman Kevin Miller.
Bearkat starter Caleb Smith (8-5), who took the loss, got only one out into the second inning before he was replaced by Brandon Bergen after Smith gave up seven hits and four runs. Bergen gave up only one hit and held the Islanders scoreless for four innings.
A&M-Corpus Christi added three unearned runs in the top of the sixth as right fielder Jordan Lee walked, was sacrificed to second and scored on an infield error. Taylor Holt took over on the mound and gave up a two-run single to designated hitter Jonathan Gonzales.
Atwood led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, advanced on an error and scored on a grounder by first baseman Ryan O’Hearn to cut the margin to 7-2. Porras led off the ninth with a solo home run, his third of the year all of which came against Sam Houston. Stanford Brantley also added an RBI single in the ninth.
The Bearkats now must fight their way through the loser’s bracket to reach Saturday’s final. Only four times in Southland tournament’s 19-year modern history (Texas State in 1997 and 2011), McNeese State (2003) and UT-Arlington (2006) has a team bounced back from an opening round loss to win the event.
“This will be a good gut check for us and we will have to come out and see how we do in the morning,” Pierce said. “We got behind early and we just never could overcome it.”