GoBearkats.com / Gene Schallenberg / Huntsville Item / Huntsville – Left fielder Luke Plucheck’s walk-off single with two out in the bottom of the ninth earned Sam Houston State a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over San Diego Saturday night.
The victory marked the first win for the Bearkats under new head coach David Pierce, formerly pitching coach for the Rice Owls.
San Diego starting pitcher Paul Sewald did not allow the Bearkats a hit or a runner past first base in the first six innings. The right-hander left the game after seven innings with a 2-0 lead.
But in the bottom of the eighth, catcher John Hale tied the contest with a two-run single. With one out in the ninth, third baseman Kevin Miller doubled to right field to set up the game winning player.
“They got plenty of hits, but we got hits when we needed to. It was good timing on the hits,” Kats senior catcher John Hale said. “Getting a chance to win it in the bottom half of the ninth, we felt good about it. We wanted to get a run and get out of here.
“It was good to get a win for Coach (David) Pierce and get his first one and also for us. Hopefully tomorrow we can take the series.”
Trailing by a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth, the Bearkats didn’t have much time to get something going.
With baserunners on second and third base with two outs, there wasn’t a better time to come up with a big hit, especially against San Diego closer James Pazos.
That’s when Hale ripped a liner through the right side of the infield, just past the glove of Torero second baseman Bryan Haar, which allowed freshmen Corey Toups and Colt Atwood to touch home plate and tie the game at 2.
“I was just trying to hit the ball up the middle. I was just trying for a single because a single would tie it,” Hale said. “He started me off with a curveball and I offered at it and he got ahead of me. With two strikes, I was trying to battle and hit something on line somewhere and get it through the hole.”
After a three up, three down top of the ninth, the Kats had a chance to polish the game off and win it.
Following a leadoff strikeout, third baseman Kevin Miller looped a high-flying shot to the right-field corner that fell safely in play that right fielder Kris Bryant couldn’t get to and ended up with a stand-up double.
Miller was unable to advance on the next at-bat when second baseman Jessie Plumlee lined out to right.
Then pinch-hitter Luke Plucheck stepped up to the plate, knowing full-well that a hard-hit ball to the outfield could very bring in the game-winner.
“All I was trying to do was put the ball in play hard,” Plucheck said. “If you put the ball in play and hit it hard, good things happen.”
With the count reaching 2-2, Plucheck drilled a low-rolling grounder through the left side of the infield. Pierce didn’t hesitate to wave Miller around and the junior made it home without a sweat, thanks to an off-line relay throw from second baseman Austin Bailey.
“Tonight the wind was carrying and against a lefty like that who loves off-speed away, I’m just trying to stay back. When I saw a fastball coming in, I just tried to turn on it and let Kevin do his thing,” Plucheck said.
The Bearkats (1-1 overall) struggled through much of the game, offensively and defensively.
The Toreros banged eight hits through the first seven innings and took a 2-0 lead, scoring a run in both the third and sixth innings.
Sam Houston couldn’t offer much of a response against San Diego starting pitcher Paul Sewald, who had a no-hitter going into the bottom of the seventh.
“He had good stuff and he was locating well. He wasn’t giving us a lot of pitches to hit,” Hale said of Sewald’s pitching performance. “We were just going up there and try and put a good swing on the ball.”
In the latter innings, however, Sam Houston relief pitchers Brandon Bergen and Michael Oros pitched well enough to give Sam Houston a chance. The two relievers combined to hold the Toreros (1-1) to four hits and one earned run in the final 5 2/3 innings.
“How about the job my relievers did for us tonight,” Pierce said. “We didn’t want to go long with (Bergen). He’s coming off a little tender shoulder. He went in there and created some tempo, threw a lot of strikes and kept us in the game. I thought Michael was outstanding tonight.”