Staying alive was a two-step, weather-delayed process for Houston on Sunday afternoon at the Baton Rouge regional, but the Cougars got lots of help with the first part.
Southeastern Louisiana committed six errors in the first three innings — including four in a six-run second — and Houston kept its super regional aspirations intact with a 9-5 win over the Lions.
The win allowed Houston (46-16) to live at least one more game as it advanced to a Sunday night championship-round game against LSU. Houston needed a win over LSU to force a deciding game Monday.
The Cougars had to turn to their bullpen after weather delayed the game for more than an hour in the top of the seventh. Starter Aaron Garza (9-4) had allowed two runs in six innings but gave way to Bubba Maxwell and Tyler Ford after the delay.
Southeastern (38-25) scored three runs in its final two at-bats to tighten things up.
“Garza didn’t have his best stuff, but he competes like crazy,” Houston coach Todd Whitting said. “It’s a testament to him playing against a great hitting team that he went out and barreled through it. I’m really happy with him.”
Southeastern’s Sean Kennel (5-4) started, but exited in the second amid a barrage of Lions errors. Kennel was charged with seven unearned runs as SLU was let down by its defense for the second time in three tournament games.
“We’ve been playing good baseball for a couple of weeks now, and that was an inning that got away from us,” Southeastern coach Matt Riser said of Houston’s six-run second. “Unfortunately when you look back at it, for the tournament, there were two innings that hampered us: The eighth inning against LSU, and the second inning today against Houston.”
On Saturday, Houston’s Connor Hollis started the second inning with a single to right. Josh Vidales then reached when second baseman Jacob Williams mishandled what looked like a double-play grounder. A sacrifice moved the runners over, but Kennel got Ashford Fulmer to pop out to short for the second out.
Then the floodgates opened.
Kyle Survance slapped a two-run single to center, a hit that was followed by errors on three consecutive batters. Two runs had scored off the errors before Frankie Ratliff drilled a two-run double to left-center.
Kennel was lifted for Jason Greenleaf, who got Hollis — who was batting for the second time in the inning — to hit a pop-up for the third out.
Southeastern got two runs back in the third after Williams and Jacob Seward started the inning with a single and a double. Jameson Fisher’s single to center got away from Fulmer, and Williams and Seward both came home on the play.
“You’ve still got to go out and pitch like it’s a one-run game,” Garza said of his approach after Houston led 7-0 through 1½ innings. “You can’t just give pitches away, and I thought I did that in the third inning. I had a little pep talk, and was battling after that.”
Houston pushed its lead to 9-2 in the top of the eighth on Landon Appling’s two-run double to left.
Southeastern answered with Kennon Menard’s two-run single in the bottom of the inning. The Lions then scored another run after opening the bottom of the ninth with three consecutive hits.
Ford closed the game out with two strikeouts and a ground out to send the Lions packing.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of this group of guys,” Riser said. “If you look at the adversity through the year — we started out 9-8 (and) had a six-game losing streak — but at the end of the day, it’s been one of the greatest years in Southeastern Louisiana history.”