SUGAR LAND, TX (Press Release)- For the first two-thirds of its opening game in the Southland Conference Tournament, the Stephen F. Austin baseball team held top-seeded Sam Houston State in check, but the Bearkats scored four runs on five hits and a pair of SFA errors in the seventh, handing SFA a 5-3 setback on Wednesday evening at Constellation Field.
With the setback in their first postseason game since 2013, the 'Jacks drop to 27-29 and 7-13 all-time in Southland Conference Tournament games. With the double-elimination format, SFA remains alive and will try to put the skids on a seven-game losing streak on Thursday at noon against Lamar.
A lineup riddled with 2016 All-Southland Conference performers didn’t waste any time in giving its ace a lead to work with. Tyler Kendrick began the game with a sharp single to right before Ramos hammered a double to almost the same location of the field.
After Thornell loaded the bases by getting plunked by an offering by Donica, Garrett McMullen grounded into a double play to give the ‘Jacks a 1-0 edge. All-SLC First Team outfielder Conner Fikes capped SFA’s two-run first with an RBI single to right.
Those two runs proved to be huge for the ‘Jacks, as Donica used the break between the first and second innings to gather his bearing and settle into a good groove. In the second through seventh frames, SFA registered only three more baserunners and none of those individuals made it past first base.
As good as Donica was, though, Ledet was just as sharp by surrendering just one run through his first six innings on the bump. Sam Houston State sliced the ‘Jacks 2-0 lead in half in a three-hit second inning that culminated with a two-out, RBI single off the bat of Taylor Beene.
With his lead down to just one run, Ledet protected it by limiting the Southland Conference regular season champions to only two hits in the third through sixth frames.
Things unraveled for the upset-minded ‘Jacks in the seventh, however. A collision between Ramos and Sam Houston State’s Robbie Rojas between first and second base resulted in the frames’ second out before the Bearkats busted out for four runs.
Pinch hitter Spence Rahm kick-started the two-out rally with a single and Bryce Johnson followed with a big RBI single of his own to knot matters at two apiece. From there, freshman Riley McKnight laid down a bunt on the third-base side that pushed the go-ahead run across. Another Bearkat run scored as a result of Ledet’s throwing error while trying to get McKnight at first.
Sam Houston State tacked on one final score with an RBI single by Lance Miles off of SFA reliever Austin Hearn before the frame came to an end.
Needing to put together a comeback effort, the ‘Jacks gave Bearkat closer Greg Belton – usually a surefire option to lock down a victory – fits in the eighth. Both Matthew Dickey and Thornell drew walks while singles from Kendrick and Ramos loaded the bases.
With McMullen at the plate, Belton saw the ‘Jacks’ senior reach on a fielders choice while his infield finished the game’s second double play. Although it did put another SFA run on the board, it was the final one the ‘Jacks scored as Belton regained his composure and pitched a one, two, three ninth for his 13th save.
Ledet suffered only his second loss of 2016 by giving up three earned runs on nine hits while fanning four. Donica moved to 8-3 with the win, striking out eight and not issuing a walk.
Both Kendrick and Ramos went 2-for-4 at the plate and combined to score all three of SFA’s runs.