Sam Houston and Rice will face off for the first time since the Kats eliminated the Owls from the NCAA Houston Regional last June. First pitch is at 6:30 p.m. at Reckling Park.
The Bearkats (6-5) have won three of their last four after beating No. 22 Texas in Austin last Tuesday and winning a weekend series over Arkansas State at Don Sanders Stadium.
Rice (7-5) ended a three-game losing streak Monday with a 1-0 walk-off win over California. The Owls lost all three games they played in the Astros Foundation College Classic.
Tuesday’s win over Texas was the first for the Bearkats since the 2000 season.
Starter Tyler Eppler pitched 5.2 innings but didn't give up a hit until the fifth inning when Texas’ leading hitter singled to right field. Eppler had only allowed one baserunner in the first four innings.
The Bearkat offense got off to a hot start. Hayden Simerly jumped on the first pitch of the second inning and drove a double to right field. After Spence Rahm grounded out, Ryan O'Hearn tripled to the right-field gap to drive in Simerly for the first run. Rahm hit a solo homerun in the fourth.
The Texas Longhorns had won ten straight midweek games coming into the night.
Caleb Smith had the Kats in position to win Friday after pitching 6 1/3 innings allowing just one run with nine strikeouts. Sam Houston led 3-1 before reliever Jason Simms gave up a two-run single in the eighth and Derek Barosh gave up a two-run single in the ninth to make the score 5-3.
“We got started on another Friday night where we got beat. But I’m really impressed with our resiliency and ability to fight through some adversity,” said coach David Pierce. “We dropped the first one but we fought through it and took the series.”
Saturday the Bearkats came out on fire and scored two runs in the first and second innings en route to an 8-1 win. Hayden Simerly led the way with a three-RBI game and Anthony Azar drove in two runs.
Cody Dickson pitched 6 2/3 allowing just one run in the game on three hits. Dickson struck out six but also issued six walks. Michael Burchett pitched the final 2 1/3 innings in relief.
In the finale the Sam Houston bats came to life as they hit ten extra-base hits to beat A-State 11-6 and win the series. Shortstop Carter Burgess was 3-for-4 with two doubles, a triple, and three RBI. The Bearkats seven doubles is the most by a Kat team at Don Sanders Stadium.
“Carter is doing a great job at short and he’s got the ability to play third, second, and he can play outfield,” said Pierce. “He’s also leading the team in doubles. He has the ability to drive the ball to the gap and he’s shown that.”
Andrew Godail started for the Kats but had to depart due to an apparent injury and was replaced by Logan Boyd after just 2 2/3 innings. The freshman lefthander pitched 4 1/3 in relief allowing just two runs on four hits and two walks.
“Logan Boyd has been a very pleasant surprise and his success has now become something we expect,” Pierce said. “He’s doing his job really well. He’s had five appearances so far and has been successful in all five.”
Wednesday’s matchup with Rice is the first of two midweek games between the teams this season. The Owls will play at Don Sanders Stadium March 26.
The teams are meeting for the 20th time in the last ten seasons, including three NCAA regional matchups.
“It’s always a tough game against Rice whether it’s in midweek or at a regional. It’s another challenge for us and we’re looking forward to it,” said Pierce. “We’ve got to get a couple of guys healthy but we’re going to have fresh arms ready to go.”
Each team has just four batters hitting over .300. The Owls’ leading hitter is Michael Aquino with a .367 average primarily playing as the designated hitter. Aquina has already hit four homeruns and driven in nine runs but also struck out ten times.
Second baseman Christian Stringer is hitting .341 with five runs scored and five RBI.
The Rice starting pitcher could be one of two right handers, Connor Mason or Kevin McCanna.
Mason has made just one appearance in relief this season pitching two scoreless innings with two hits and two strikeouts. McCanna has a 14.73 ERA after three appearances and one start. In his start he went 1 2/3 allowing five runs against Hawaii.
The Bearkats are back home at Don Sanders Stadium this weekend for a three-game series against Connecticut.