Offense helps even Don Sanders Cup

Apr. 10—HUNTSVILLE — After Houston crushed the Bearkat hearts with a walk-off win earlier this season, Sam Houston answered the call on its home turf.

The Bearkats rallied for multiple runs in three innings to help lift them over the Cougars to even up the Don Sanders Cup at one game apiece.

With an offense that was rolling from a series in New Mexico, the Bearkat sluggers willed their way to an 8-5 win over the Cougars.

"It's always a fun series to play. Don [Sanders] has done so much for both programs and we are thankful to have a chance to play in this thing. Houston is a good club and it was a good night for us," Sam Houston coach Jay Sirianni said.

Despite having sluggers up and down the roster, Sam Houston's offense had been kind of quiet. In a series over Easter, the Bearkats mustered up 12 runs against Liberty.

Liberty completed the sweep over the Kats, which started a four-game losing streak. But things continued to click against the Coogs.

Leadoff batter Jake Tatom ripped a leadoff single to kickstart the game. Golden Spikes midseason watch list member, Walker Janek, followed suit for another hit. All of a sudden the Bearkats were in a prime spot.

Corsicana native Hunter Autrey had an opportunity to bring in some big runs, but a fielder's choice put runners on the corners and eliminated Janek's base running abilities.

Then the Kats got an answer. New Mexico transfer Jeffery David belted a triple to score Autry from second and keep the Kats pressing. David not only came through on that triple, but delivered a double later to bring his RBI total to three.

Getting those two runs became a one-run lead after the Cougars took an early lead after a solo shot from Anthony Tulimero.

"It played a vital role in the win tonight. Anytime you can put up two spots in the first and follow it up, it's a momentum deal," David said. "Our guys built on that and carried it throughout the game."

David was a key player for the Bearkats and tonight he showed up again. Slashing a .313 on the season, David wrapped up a 2-3 game, his 11th multi-hit game in a Bearkats uniform.

Houston trotted out six arms in the contest and the Bearkats attacked each of them. Chris Stuart grabbed the start and was chased after 1 1/3rd innings, but seemed to be on a pitch count of 30. Sam Houston took him for four hits and three runs before getting him out of the game.

Brendan O'Donnell was the lone Cougar not to allow a hit but gave up one baserunner via a walk.

Getting the nine hits was the most the 'Kats had at home since March 24th against Dallas Baptist.

"It's always comfortable to play at home and we are a good team here. Offensively, you go through those stretches throughout the year," Sirianni said. "Coach (Shane) Wedd has done a good job of regrouping and resetting some goals. That is the name of the game."

Sirianni gave the rock to Gavi Coldiron on the mound for what was his first appearance since March 29th when he started against DBU. Coldiron had some jitters to work out, but settled in nicely.

The Cougars took him for the first-inning home run but added just two more runs against him in four other innings of work.

Coldiron wasn't getting punchouts against the Cougars but induced 11 flyouts that displaced his three strikeouts. Coldiron was giving up a lot of contact though, as the Cougar bats continued to belt hits to the outfield. Off him, Houston tallied five extra-base hits on the seven hits they had.

"Gavi is a strike pumper and anytime he starts to get himself in a bind he either gets too fine or cuts the plate in half. I think he came back after a couple of rough ones. He has put in the work for the last few weeks to make some adjustments," Sirianni said.

Sirianni turned to Texas A&M transfer Wyatt Tucker for the sixth. Tucker has had a bit of an up-and-down season for the Bearkats and tonight was no different.

Tucker grabbed a fly out to start the frame but quickly gave up a walk and a double that landed a Cougar run. With two outs, Coby DeJesus lined a ball to the outfield to tack on another run.

With Tucker ending the inning, Sam Houston turned to former starter Logan Hewitt to help settle it out. Of the first seven batters Hewitt saw, four of them were retired via strikeouts. He led the game with four punchouts and allowed one hit.

Chandler David entered the game with a three-run cushion and logged his fifth save of the season as he needed 12 pitches to end the game.

Now, Sam Houston jumps back into Conference USA play after losing five of its last six conference matchups. The Bearkats will host Western Kentucky for a weekend series. The Hilltoppers enter the game after a midweek walk-off win against Louisville and a series win over DBU in Bowling Green.

"We look at it as a faceless opponent. We try to play our brand of baseball," David said. "I don't know too much about Western Kentucky right now, but I'm sure we are going to dive into it and look at them. It should be a great challenge for us and I am excited to get after it."

Sam Houston and WKU will start its series at 6:30 p.m. Friday at The Don. The Bearkats are expected to throw Coltin Atkinson in the game while the Hilltoppers will likely have Jack Bennett take the mound. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.