HUNTSVILLE – Hunter Hearn blasted a walk-off, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Sam Houston State Bearkats a 6-5 win over UConn on Sunday afternoon, clinching the series for the Kats at Don Sanders Stadium.
The Bearkats (24-17) trailed 5-4 entering the ninth inning against UConn (26-18) stopper Jacob Wallace, but needed just two pitches to in the frame to walk off winners on Hearn’s seventh home run of the season.
It capped a 3-for-5 day for the Bearkat senior and made a winner of Nick Mikolajchak, who retired all five hitters he faced in relief with three punchouts over the game’s final two innings, keeping the Huskies right where they were after taking the lead in the top of the eighth.
It was the first loss of the season for UConn’s Wallace, who entered the game with a 0.36 ERA and nine saves, dropping his record to 3-1.
Clayton Harp also added three hits, while Gavin Johnson and Jack Rogers each had two as part of a 13-hit day for the Bearkat offense. Freshman Jackson Loftin drove in three runs in the game, getting a two-run double in the fourth to tie the game at 2-2 and also re-tying the game at 4-4 when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded by Wallace in the bottom of the seventh.
On the mound, the Kats used five arms on the day with Matt Dillard getting his first start since the opening weekend of the year. The freshman lefty allowed two runs in 3.2 innings before exiting in favor of Dominic Robinson who struck out three and did not walk a batter in 2.1 innings of work.
UConn grabbed an early lead in the second inning on an RBI single by Michael Woodworth and added another in the fourth on an infield single by Anthony Nucerino; however, the Kats were finally able to get to Husky starter Jimmy Wang in the bottom half of the inning for two runs of their own. A single by Johnson and a double by Rogers quickly had SHSU in business against Wang, but it was Loftin who delivered the big hit of the inning with a two-run double off of UConn reliever Colby Dunlop to tie it up at 2-2.
The Huskies answered with another run in the fifth, but an opposite-field home run by Johnson with two outs in the bottom of the inning immediately got the run back. Robinson responded with a shutout sixth inning, but UConn was able to regain the lead in the seventh when Woodworth drew a two-out walk and worked his way all around the bases on two wild pitches and the only error of the game by either team to put UConn back in front 4-3.
The bottom of the inning started by Harp slamming a double off the center field batter’s eye, prompting the Huskies to go to their stopper, Wallace. But the righty immediately walked Colton Cowser before Hearn blasted one off the batter’s eye as well, loading the sacks with nobody out.
Wallace responded by promptly recording strikeouts of both Johnson and Rogers, but fell behind Loftin 3-1 before plunking him to bring in the tying run.
UConn was able to take advantage of a leadoff single by Kyler Fedko in the eighth to go back in front 5-4, and eventually loaded the bases with just one away. The Kats then went to Mikolajchak out of the bullpen and the junior quickly punched out John Toppa on three pitches before getting Anthony Prato to pop out to prevent any further damage.
Neither team was able to do anything with their next trips to the plate, including Mikolajchak punching out two more in the top of the ninth, setting the stage for the Bearkat offense in the bottom of the ninth. Cowser opened the inning by lining a single into center field and one pitch later Hearn blasted one off the scoreboard in left-center field to walk it off.
The Bearkats will stay at home next week for four games at The Don, beginning Tuesday when they host nationally-ranked Texas A&M. The game is set for a 6:30 p.m. start and will be aired on ESPN+.