NACOGDOCHES, Texas (Press Release)- Last May, Stephen F. Austin pitcher Patrick Ledet saw Sam Houston State end the `Jacks' season mere hours after the then-junior delivered a four-inning save that pushed the Bearkats to the brink of elimination in the first half of a Southland Conference Tournament doubleheader between SFA and the Bearkats.
Friday afternoon, the senior lefty played a pivotal role in getting the Bearkats back and ending the longest in-conference winning streak in Southland Conference history.
A three-run fourth added to the `Jacks' early lead and an impressive pitching performance starting with Ledet and finished by Will Vest and Tyler Starks put an end to the Bearkats' 18-game Southland Conference winning streak as SFA captured a 5-1 win at Jaycees Field in game two of the series between the Piney Woods rivals.
Ledet locked down his team-leading fifth win of the season by firing 6.1 innings of six-hit, one-run baseball before turning things over to Vest who held the Bearkats' without a hit for 1.2 frames. That set the stage for Starks who gave up a pair of walks, before inducing a popup to end the game and give the Bearkats their first Southland Conference loss of 2017. Following a 9-8 setback to Lamar on May 13, 2016, Sam Houston State had reeled off 18-straight Southland Conference wins before Friday's setback that left the Bearkats sitting a 25-10 and 13-1 in league play.
"The key to success in this is conference is to have guys who give you good, quality starts and men in your bullpen who can give you short bursts of holding opponents at bay," said SFA head coach Johnny Cardenas. "Today our offense did just enough, but the credit has to go to our pitching staff and our defense. They put us in a spot to go out and get this win."
Andrew Cole, Alex Hrinevich and Zac Michener each had two hits for the `Jacks and combined to drive in three of the five runs. Defensively, the `Jacks' pitching staff stranded 10 Sam Houston State runners on the base paths and a pair of Bearkat errors allowed two of the five SFA runs to touch home plate.
SFA got its scoring started in the home half of the second when Hrinevich and Andrew Cole each delivered a two-out single to put runners on the corners. With Jarrod Huber at the plate, Cole made a break for second base and Sam Houston State catcher Robie Rojas sailed an attempted pickoff throw into shallow center as there was nobody covering second. That throw let Hrinevich come home from third, giving the `Jacks a lead they would never give up.
An RBI double from Michener as well as an RBI single from Hrinevich in the `Jacks' three-run fourth made it a 3-0 lead for the home team. With one out in the frame, Cole punched his second single of the day to the gap in right-center, advancing Hrinevich to third in the process. For the second time, Hrinevich scored on a throwing error by Sam Houston State's third baseman Andrew Fregia who tried to pick off Cole at first.
Once Sam Houston State starter Seth Ballew headed back to the Sam Houston State dugout in the bottom of the fifth after allowing back-to-back singles by Tyler Kendrick and Nick Ramos, the Bearkats called on Riley Cooper to try and shut down the `Jacks. By and large, the Sam Houston State reliever did so, striking out four and allowing only one hit through the final four frames.
The only hit Cooper gave up through his day relief work came with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Michener launched the first pitch he saw from the Bearkat beyond the left field fence for his team-leading sixth homer of 2017, putting an exclamation point on the `Jacks' five-run Friday.
A leadoff double by Fregia in the Bearkats' half of the sixth turned into the visitors' lone run of the game. A flyout moved Fregia to third before the infielder scored in a sacrifice fly off the bat of Robie Rojas.