The Sam Houston State Bearkats (17-8) took on the Rice Owls (8-19) for the second time this season in a mid-week game at Don Sanders Stadium. Although the Bearkats defeated the Owls in their first meeting, Tuesday was a different day as the Owls edged the Kats 5-3 to hand SHSU its second straight loss. Bearkats starting pitcher Dakota Mills made his second start of the season against the Owls, and his sixth start overall.
SHSU started redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Dakota Mills on the mound and he started off the game well, allowing just one hit in the first inning and striking out two of the three Owl hitters.
However, the Owls were able to get on the board in the second.
After setting down the Bearkats in order, Owls sophomore shortstop Ford Proctor got to Mills with a solo homerun to lead off the top of the second. The Owls were able to score again after an error by sophomore first baseman Hunter Hearn allowed Owls senior outfielder Charlie Warren to reach base. Following a single by junior designated hitter Chace Sarchet, Warren scored to bring the Owl lead to 2-0 after two innings of play.
Rice tacked on another run in the top of the third after Proctor cranked his second homerun of the game. In Proctor’s first two at-bats, he had two hits with both of them being homeruns.
“We obviously didn’t look like we were ready tonight, and that’s on me,” head coach Matt Deggs said. “We pitched it pretty good, but if we don’t execute and dominate routine plays then we can’t expect to beat too many people.”
While Mills struggled early in the game for the Bearkats, Owls sophomore starting pitcher Kendal Jefferies, who was making his first career start, looked comfortable out there against the Bearkats lineup. In the first three innings, Jefferies allowed just two hits and had four strikeouts against a red hot Bearkat offense.
However, the good start did not last much longer for Jefferies.
After allowing two Bearkats to get on base, Hearn hit a three run homerun to tie the game at 3-3. On the following pitch, Jefferies gave up a single to senior shortstop Taylor Beene, and that was his last pitch of the evening. Jeffries had looked calm, cool and collected for the Owls up until his final two pitches.
After the Bearkats three run fourth inning, the game stayed quiet for a while. Mills set down the Owls quickly in the fifth and sixth inning before being replaced by freshman relief pitcher Kyle Backhus going into the seventh. Backhus proceeded to set down the Owls in order, keeping the score tied at three. Freshman pitcher Addison Moss for the Owls worked through three innings allowing just one hit. In his second inning of work, Backhus found himself in some trouble with runners on first and second with nobody out. Backhus was able to make it two outs with runners on second and third, but a two out single by graduate transfer Darryn Sheppard scored two for the Owls, making the score 5-3 going into the bottom of the eighth.
The Bearkats looked to rally in the bottom of the eighth, but after sophomore outfielder Clayton Harp singled to lead off the inning, senior second baseman Lance Miles grounded into a double play, ending the scoring opportunity for the Bearkats.
SHSU was then able to get runners on first and second with two outs, and had senior catcher Robbie Rojas at the plate, but freshman outfielder Mike Williams was caught trying to steal second on a double steal, ending the inning.
The ninth did not provide any opportunities for the Bearkats, as Owl closer Glenn Otto set down the Bearkats in order, giving the Owls a 5-3 win.
“It’s always disappointing when you lose,” Hearn said “Rice, they’re a great ball club, they put up a heck of a fight, and they pitched us good tonight. It was hard to keep up with what they were throwing at us.”
Tuesday’s loss makes it three in four games for the Bearkats, as it looks like their hot streak that began in late February is now over. Up next, the Bearkats will continue Southland Conference play against the Abilene Christian Wildcats, beginning a three game set on Friday at Crutcher Scott Field in Abilene.
First pitch of the series is set for 6 p.m.