SUGARLAND, Texas -- Houston Baptist’s bats were out in full force again on Friday afternoon as the No. 4 Huskies used two homers and a four-run sixth to upset and eliminate No. 1 Sam Houston State. HBU earns a spot in tonight’s semifinal, a rematch with No. 8 New Orleans following the first semifinal between Northwestern State and Nicholls at 4:55 p.m.
HBU wasted no time getting on the board as Tyler Depreta-Johnson blasted a leadoff homer over the left field wall for a 1-0 Huskies lead.
Sam Houston flipped the script in the bottom of the second, as Riley McKnight tripled to left center field with the bases loaded to make it 3-1 Bearkats. The next at-bat saw Blake Chisolm single through to right field to bring McKnight home and push the lead to 4-1.
The Bearkats nearly scored another at the bottom of the fourth, but a ground-rule double by Jaxxon Grisham kept Riley McKnight at third and the score at 4-1 heading into the fifth inning.
R. Gossett continued his strong showing on the mount at the top of the fifth, striking out three straight batters to retire the Huskies, bringing his total in the game to seven.
Houston Baptist finally responded in dramatic fashion at the top of the sixth after three scoreless innings. After a Spencer Halloran double and Matt Heck single, Jake Pulcheon shot a three-run homer over the left field wall to knot the game 4-4.
Sam Houston State brought on Niko Mikolajchak to the mound, who gave up a solo homer to Jake Scott on his first batter faced. HBU would take 5-4 lead into the bottom of the sixth. The Bearkats would get a runner on third with one out at the bottom of the seventh but HBU would survive the next two batters to take the one-run lead into the final two.
Closer Dakota Mills came to the mound to toss the final two innings for Sam Houston at the top of the eighth and the Bearkats quickly retired the HBU side. In the bottom of the eighth, two straight Sam Houston batters were hit by pitches, putting the go-ahead runners on base and no outs. Jordan Cannon’s bunt advanced Hunter Hearn to third, but a ground out double play to shortstop from Riley McKnight got the Huskies out of the jam.
HBU was on the hunt for insurance runs in the top of the ninth, advancing Scott to second base on a sac bunt. An RBI double from Depreta-Johnson with two outs sent Scott home for a 6-4 lead. A fly out to first base ended the inning and sent the Bearkats out facing down a two-run deficit to escape elimination.
JT Newton struck out Chisolm swinging on the first at-bat before a grounder escaped down the first base line from Jaxxon Grisham to put the tying run on first. A fly out to center field made it two outs as Andrew Fregia stepped to the plate for Sam Houston. With two strikes, he sent a fly ball deep to left center which Spencer Halloran lost in the sun for a hit, sending Grisham to third. Jack Rogers came to the plate and with a 2-2 count, grounded out to first base to seal the upset 6-4 win for the Huskies.
Should the Huskies win their rematch with New Orleans tonight, they will need to win again tomorrow at 1 p.m. to punch a ticket to the championship game at 6 p.m.