GoBearkats.com / Gene Schallenberg / Huntsville Item / Huntsville – Third baseman Kevin Miller went 3-for-5 with three RBIs including a two-run single to spark a five-run seventh inning as Sam Houston State defeated San Diego 10-3 in a non-conference baseball game at Don Sanders Stadium Sunday afternoon.
Center fielder Colt Atwood also went 3-for-5 as the Bearkats totaled 10 hits in the win, giving Sam Houston two victories in the three-game season-opening series..
Thanks to strong performances from their pitching staff, defense and advantageous hitters, Sam Houston was able to pull away in the late innings on Sunday to defeat the Toreros 10-3 in the series finale to take the series.
“Our pitching was great every game, so we just had to come out and play ball like we know how to play and it worked out,” said Bearkats third baseman Kevin Miller, who connected for three hits and drove in three RBIs.
Through the first half of the rubber match, the Kats, who improved to 2-1 on the season, and San Diego were locked in a pitchers’ duel.
From the opening innings, Sam Houston starting pitcher Justin Jackson and San Diego’s starter Dylan Covey were in command. While being limited at the plate, the Bearkats were able to strike in the third inning.
Freshman left fielder Hayden Simerly led off the inning with a walk and then got into scoring position off a sacrifice bunt by freshman shortstop Corey Toups. Then the speedy freshman center fielder Colt Atwood smacked a liner up the middle that looked to head into center field, but San Diego second baseman Austin Bailey dove and snagged the ball. Bailey attempted to throw from his knees, but the ball sailed left of first baseman Bryan Haar’s glove and Simerly was able score easily.
In the next inning, the Kats were able to take advantage of Miller’s lead-off double. Once designated hitter Shea Pierce advanced Miller to third on a sacrifice bunt, Atwood brought him home on a sacrifice fly to left field.
“I thought we bunted well all weekend and today was no exception. We really did a nice job of putting the ball in play and placing it. Bunting is all about placement,” Sam Houston head coach David Pierce said.
There the 2-0 score stood for a few innings as Jackson and reliever Blake Whitehead held the Toreros in check. Jackson, who was on a limited pitch count, threw four hitless innings with just one walk and two strikeouts. Whitehead allowed one hit in the fifth, but kept San Diego from doing anything with the baserunner.
“Justin was on a pitch count and that’s why he came out early. He was really sharp, but we just didn’t want to push him. He did a great job,” Pierce said. “We also had good work in the middle with Whitehead and (Andrew) Godail. I’m very pleased with the way the guys competed today on the mound.”
The Toreros (1-2) started to get aboard the bases and broke through on the scoreboard in the seventh as shortstop Andrew Daniel drove in San Diego’s first run on an RBI single up the middle.
With San Diego closing in on the Bearkats’ lead, Sam Houston cranked up the offense in a big way.
Before even recording their first out of the inning, the Kats loaded the bases on a single by pinch hitter Luke Plucheck, a sacrifice bunt by Toups that was mishandled by Toreros pitcher Max Homick and a bunt down the first-base line by Atwood.
“Toups moved the runner over and Colt laid that bunt down. That really helped us get momentum on our side,” Miller said. “The pitcher that came in, we knew he was a freshman so we had to jump on him early and take advantage of that to get things in our favor.”
Right fielder Greg Olson stretched Sam Houston’s lead to 4-1 with a double down the right-field line. With the bases loaded again after first baseman Ryan O’Hearn was intentionally walked, Miller looped the ball into shallow right field that fell just inside the foul line and two more runs scored.
By the time the inning was over, the Bearkats had batted around their order and brought five runs in to take a 7-1 lead with two innings to play.
San Diego scrapped back for a pair of runs in the eighth, but it could’ve been more. The Toreros loaded the bases on back-to-back singles and designated hitter Corey LeVier was hit by a pitch.
After a discussion on the mound, Pierce decided to stay with reliever Scott Allen, who kept the damage to a minimum. The Toreros could only cut into the deficit with a pair of runs.
“The first ball was hit up the middle. If (Scott) wouldn’t have tipped it, it would’ve been a double play,” Pierce said. “He did a nice job the next time on the same kind of ball. The ball fell into his glove and he fed John (Hale) the ball and we had a 1-2-3 double play.
“It was just good to get out of that without getting deep with another guy and finalize the inning with minimal damage.”
The Bearkats responded right back with three more runs. With the bases loaded – again with no outs – catcher John Hale grounded out to Daniel, but brought in a run.
Then for the second straight inning, O’Hearn was intentionally walked, leaving the bases juiced for Miller.
“I grounded into a double play earlier in the game and I knew they wanted me to do that again. I had to get on top of the ball, but stay short at the same time and take advantage of that, too,” Miller said.
Again, Miller came through with a big hit, a screamer that deflected off relief pitcher Trevor Bayless’ leg, that allowed Atwood to score.
“For us to come back and really tack on runs, that secured it for us,” Pierce said.
Scott continued in the ninth and didn’t allow a baserunner to get into scoring position to seal the 10-3 win for Sam Houston.