SUGAR LAND, Texas — Playing its third game in 24 hours, Sam Houston State overcame a four-run deficit to beat Southeastern Louisiana 7-4 for the Southland Conference baseball tournament championship Sunday at Constellation Field.
With the victory, the Bearkats earn the SLC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Lions, meanwhile, will have to wait until Monday to learn their fate.
“I tell you what, I think this club is going to be playing again next week,” SLU coach Matt Riser said of his Lions. “We’ve done everything we can from an at-large standpoint. You take the name off, and you can put our résumé against anyone in the country. From an at-large standpoint, this is by far the best we’ve ever put together from a metric standpoint.”
SLU looked like it would be in position to control its destiny on the field when Jameson Fisher hit a grand slam to give the Lions a 4-0 lead in the third inning.
Sam Houston State chipped away in the third and fourth innings, however, and jumped ahead for good in the sixth on a Robbie Rojas RBI double.
“We punched first, then they punched back and we couldn’t answer,” said Fisher, who was named to the all-tournament team. “At the end of the day, they just answered more than we did.”
SLU (39-19) left seven runners on base, committed three errors and could not find consistency on the mound.
Pat Cashman started and gave up two runs in 3.1 innings. He was relieved by the Lions’ No. 1 starter, Kyle Cedotal, who lasted just four batters, allowing three of them to reach base.
Drew Avans and Kade Granier finished the game with mixed results.
“That is a tough crew over there,” Riser said. “They got the ball to fall, and we couldn’t. I thought we made all of our mistakes aggressive, which I’m fine with. If you are going to make mistakes, you’ve got to make them aggressive.”
Sam Houston State (41-20) has won a conference-high five championships and its first since 2009. Rojas led the way with two hits, two RBIs and two runs.
Miles Manning, Hayden Nixon and Riley Gossett combined to shut down the Lions after starter Greg Belton gave up the grand slam.
“Southeastern is a great ball club. They could go win a regional,” SHSU coach Matt Deggs said. “Our boys are just resilient, and they love to play. We were down and out for a while this season, but we got new life and made the most of it. I think we have our best baseball left to play.”
Now it will be a game of patience for the Lions; the NCAA field of 64 will be announced at 11 a.m. Monday.
Regionals run Friday through Sunday.
“We hope we get in so we can show everyone what we are all about,” said SLU’s Carson Crites, who also made the all-tournament team. “We believe we did enough to get in. We went through a rough patch at the end of the regular season, but we feel good now. We had a lot come together to remind us that we have it.”
On Sunday, the Lions struck first in the third inning. Derrick Mount and Brennan Breaud led off with back-to-back singles, and Daniel Midyett followed with a walk.
That brought up Fisher, who drove the first pitch he saw over the right-field wall for a grand slam. But the big lead didn’t last long.
Sam Houston got one back in the third on an RBI double by Clayton Harp, then strung together three singles, a walk and a SLU error to tie the score at 4 in the fourth inning.
The Bearkats took their first lead in the bottom of the sixth inning when Rojas doubled in Jaxxon Grisham from first base.
Rojas scored minutes later on a wild pitch from Avans to give the Bearkats a 6-4 lead. Sam Houston tacked on a seventh run in the eighth inning without getting a hit.
The Bearkats dogpiled on the field after the final out, but Fisher said he can see his team doing the same thing next week.
“I think we will see our name pop up on that screen and our season will continue,” Fisher said. “I can’t wait to prove who we are in a regional.”