LAKE CHARLES, La. -- An eight-run sixth inning fueled the Sam Houston baseball team to a 18-5 win over McNeese State Tuesday night in the Bearkats fifth straight game to start the season. The win kept SHSU perfect and handed the Cowboys their first loss of the season.
It was the third consecutive game that SHSU scored five runs or more in the sixth inning on their way to victory. This time the Kats were trailing 4-2 heading into the frame.
“It might be coincidental right now but we are making some adjustments and fortunately we’re scoring some runs and it happens to be in the sixth inning,” head coach David Pierce said. “I think our guys had a great approach at the plate tonight. They stayed on the ball really well and had good results.”
Shortstop Corey Toups got it all started in the sixth with double into the gap in left center. After Toups advanced to third on a balk and designated hitter Dirk Masters walked, catcher Shea Pierce ripped an RBI single just over the second baseman.
The Cowboys made their first pitching change before second baseman Ryan Farney bunted for a base hit to load the bases with no outs.
Left fielder Luke Plucheck once again delivered a big hit, ripping a go-ahead double down the left field line to plate two and give SHSU a 5-4 lead. Center fielder Colt Atwood followed with a two-RBI double of his own, scoring Farney and Plucheck.
The hit parade continued as right fielder Hayden Simerly ripped a single to right field for the sixth hit and sixth run of the inning. Toups came back around to bat in the sixth and drove in a run on an RBI groundout after shortstop Carter Burgess singled in front of a sacrifice bunt by right fielder Ryan O’Hearn.
Masters ripped a single to center field to score Burgess from second base for the final run of the inning. In all, 13 Bearkats went to the plate accounting for eight runs on eight hits.
Alan Scott pitched in relief and picked up the win for Sam Houston. The lefty tossed 2 2/3 innings and allowed just one run on four hits. Scott struck out two batters and didn’t issue any walks.
Toups finished the game 2-for-3 with five RBI and three runs scored. Plucheck, Atwood, Burgess and Pierce each drove in two runs apiece. Every Bearkat starter got a hit in the game and all except for Plucheck had two hits.
“Our guys were ready to go tonight on the back end of playing five straight days. I was worried about how we would respond with legs and bodies and I thought we responded great,” Pierce added.
It was a back-and-forth affair for the first three innings of the ballgame. O’Hearn gave the Bearkats a first-inning lead when he singled through the right side of the infield to score Plucheck, who led off the game with a walk.
McNeese State would grab the lead in the bottom of the second. After a quick first out, shortstop Connor Lloyd singled to right field and designated hitter Gordy Reed doubled down the left field line.
A sacrifice fly by third baseman Matt Gallier tied the game 1-1 and a base hit by left fielder Clay Payne gave the Cowboys a 2-1 lead.
Toups tied the game back up with a sacrifice fly of his own in the top of the third. Simerly led off with a walk and advanced to third on a single by O’Hearn before scoring on the sac fly.
McNeese immediately retook the lead, 4-2, after a leadoff walk came around to score on a double by right fielder James Cantu. Cantu came around to score on a groundout by first baseman Chayse Marion.
Bearkat starting pitcher Ryan Brinley tossed 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on five hits while striking out four batters.
The Bearkats added another two runs in the top of the eighth. O’Hearn walked and scored on a wild pitch. Toups reached on an error and scored on a sacrifice fly by Pierce.
McNeese tacked on an additional run in the bottom half when they strung together four straight hits to start the frame. Reliever Jason Simms came out of the bullpen to shut down the Cowboy rally with a pair of strikeouts in the eighth.
SHSU put up six more runs in the top of the ninth to make the score 18-5. Toups hit his first career home run, a three-run shot to left center.
Nolan Riggs made his debut for the Bearkats pitching the ninth inning allowing one run.
Sam Houston State will host a three-game series against Dallas Baptist starting Friday night at 6:30 p.m.
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