Sam Houston used a pair of four-run innings to beat Rice 9-3 and finish off the two-game regular season sweep. The Bearkats blanked Rice 3-0 earlier this month in Houston.
Tyler Eppler tossed six shutout innings to register his longest outing and second win of the season. The sophomore right-hander gave up just five hits and struck out two.
The first scoring opportunity of the game came in the third inning when the Owls had runners on first and second with one out. Center fielder Colt Atwood kept Rice off the board with a great play to throw out Skylar Ewing trying to score from second on a single.
“Tyler Eppler was really outstanding,” said Bearkat coach David Pierce. “They had some traffic and he was able to pitch out of it so he gave his team a chance to win.”
Sam Houston got on the board first in the fifth inning when Romeo Cortina bunted with Kevin Miller on third base. The first baseman fielded the bunt and tried to throw home but Miller beat the throw with a slide.
The Kats started to string some hits together in the sixth. Second baseman Jessie Plumlee and shortstop Carter Burgess led off with singles and catcher Anthony Azar tripled to the left field gap to drive them in.
Third baseman Kevin Miller singled to drive in Azar from third after a strikeout by first baseman Ryan O’Hearn. The Kats loaded the bases and left fielder Luke Plucheck hit a ball that the third baseman misplayed to score another run and give the Kats a 5-0 lead.
Rice put two runs on the board in the eighth to end a streak of 21 shutout innings pitched against the Rice Owls, going back to last year’s NCAA Regional matchup.
SHSU answered with four more runs in the bottom of the eighth. Ryan Farney singled and Romeo Cortina reached on an error by the catcher fielding a sacrifice bunt. Both runners advanced on a balk before Atwood hit a bunt single to score Farney. Plucheck singled to drive in another run with no one out in the inning. Plumlee sacrificed the runners over and Burgess singled to drive in the Kats final two runs.
“I think it was a great midweek game and it really is a team-builder because we used a lot of guys on the bench,” Pierce said. “We had a couple of extra different guys today and that’s the type of team we have. We have multiple options, different options and tonight’s options really worked.”
Rice added one more run in the ninth before reliever Jason Simms closed it out.
Miller was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and one RBI while Burgess was 2-for-5 with a run scored and two RBI. Azar went 1-for-5 and drove in two. Atwood also had three hits with one run scored and one RBI.
The Bearkats will hit the road for a conference series at Stephen F. Austin starting Thursday.