Arkansas rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to hand Sam Houston a 5-4 loss in the first game of the NCAA Baseball Championships Houston Regional.
Lefthander Caleb Smith limited the Razorbacks to two runs in the first six innings as Sam Houston jumped out to a two-run lead with a four-run fifth inning. The Kats outhit the Hogs 8-7 but Arkansas came up with the big plays when they had to as they advanced to Saturday’s winner’s bracket game.
“Our guys battled hard the whole game,” SHSU head coach David Pierce said. “Caleb pitched well all day. We just didn’t make a couple of plays when we needed to.”
Sam Houston will play the loser of the Rice versus Prairie View A&M game Saturday at 1 p.m.
“I told the team in the locker room that we’re still competing,” Pierce said. “We’re not here to play one game but a whole tournament. This team is young, but they know what they have to do.”
The Bearkats produced the first good scoring opportunity. The Kats loaded the bases with two outs in the second inning on a single to right by Kevin Miller and a pair of walks. But Arkansas starter D. J. Baxendale picked up the third out with a strike out.
Arkansas put two on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning as third baseman Matt Reynolds led off with a double, right fielder Brian Anderson walked and second baseman Bo Bigham reached on a fielder’s choice. Left fielder Derrick Bleeker and catcher Jake Wise brought in runs with consecutive sacrifice flies to center field.
Sam Houston took advantage of two Razorback errors to score four runs in the top of the fifth. Left fielder Luke Plucheck brought in the first run with a bases loaded ground ball. Designated hitter Anthony Azar’s RBI single and a two-run triple to left field by right fielder Jake Arrington made the score 4-2.
A two-run single with the bases loaded by shortstop Tim Carver and an RBI grounder by Reynolds gave the Razorbacks a 5-4 lead with a three-run seventh inning.
“We made a mistake on a pitching call to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning and Arkansas led off the inning with a double,” Pierce said. “Arkansas is a good-hitting ball club and they made the plays when they had to.”
Smith (8-6) ended the day throwing 117 pitches with 72 of those throws for strikes. Brandon Moore (5-2) was the winning pitcher for Arkansas in relief.
Arrington was one of eight different Bearkat batters to pick up a hit.
“Arkansas is a good team and we knew we had to keep playing hard,” Arrington said. “We were feeling good going into the seventh inning but it just didn’t work out.”