Lions rally to extend win streak, climb into second place in SLC

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HAMMOND, La. – Payton Robinson struck out a pair of batters, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the eighth inning Saturday at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field, and Carson Crites drove a two-out, two-run double to the right-field wall in the bottom of the inning as Southeastern Louisiana rallied for a 3-2 win over Sam Houston State.

The Lions (31-15, 17-9 Southland) extended their winning streak to eight straight, climbing past Sam Houston (30-17, 15-8 Southland) into second place in the Southland Conference standings.

For the second time in two games, Southeastern and the Bearkats hooked up in a pitcher’s duel. Lion starting pitcher Corey Gaconi and Sam Houston starter Kyle Backhus combined to hold their opponents scoreless through the first three innings.

Sam Houston claimed a short-lived lead in the fourth.

Second baseman Taylor Beene led off the inning with a single to left field and he advanced to second on Clayton Harp’s one-out single to center field.

With two outs, Blake Chisholm drove an RBI single to center. Harp advanced to third, but Chisholm was cut down at second attempting to stretch the hit into a double.

The Lions wiped out the deficit right away.

Ryan Byers, a senior from Ponchatoula, Louisiana, drove a full count pitch out of the park to left-center leading off the bottom of the inning.

Sam Houston went to the bullpen in the sixth, bringing in Dominic Robinson. Southeastern threatened to take the lead off the left-hander.

Brennan Breaud ripped a two-out double and, after falling behind in the count, Robinson intentionally walked Taylor Schwaner to set up a force. Carson Crites hit a slow roller to second, but Beene’s throw to first beat Crites to the bag.

The Bearkats broke the deadlock in the seventh.

Andrew Fregia ripped a one-out triple into the left-center gap and scored when Chisholm followed with a hot-shot grounder to first. Lion first baseman Derrick Mount knocked the ball down, but his throw to the plate arrived late, allowing Fregia to slide around the back of the plate and avoid the tag by catcher Evan Pace.

Gaconi worked into the eighth. After the first two runners reached, and were sacrificed into scoring position, he intentionally walked Lance Miles to set up a force at every base. He then handed the ball over to Payton Robinson.

The sophomore left-hander from Mobile, Alabama, struck out the next two batters, the cleanup batter and five –hole hitter, to work out of the jam without allowing a run.

Byers delivered another key hit with one out in the bottom of the inning, lacing a double down the right-field line.

With two outs, the Bearkats brought in closer Nick Mikolajchak to face Schwaner. Byers stole third and the right-hander eventually walked Schwaner, bringing Crites to the plate once again with runners on and two outs.

Schwaner stole second before Crites smacked the ball to right. Sam Houston right fielder Mac Odom crashed into the wall when the ball kept carrying, unable to make the catch. Byers and Schwaner scored to give Southeastern the lead.

After allowing a one-out single in the ninth to Robie Rojas, Robinson struck out a pair of pinch hitters to seal the win and allow the Lions to claim the series.

Robinson (4-0) earned the win, allowing one hit and striking out four in 1.2 innings pitched. Gaconi allowed two runs in 7.1 innings of work. He allowed seven hits and one walk, also striking out four batters.

Mikolajchak (0-2) suffered the loss, failing to retire either of the two batters he faced. He was charged with one run, allowing one hit and one walk.

Drew Avans (3-for-3) and Byers (2-for-4) led Southeastern at the plate. Breaud (1-for-4) and Crites (1-for-4) had the Lions’ other hits. Schwaner drew three walks.

Sunday’s 1 p.m. series finale is a Cane’s Challenge game. If the Lions score four or more runs, fans will be able to redeem their game ticket or student coupon at their local participating Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers for a free combo with the purchase of another of equal or greater value by the close of business on Monday.

Sam Houston will send freshman right-hander Hayden Wesneski (7-2, 3.64) out in the series finale against Lion sophomore righty Carlisle Koestler (3-2, 3.92).

The game can be heard in the Hammond, Louisiana, area on KSLU 90.9 FM, and worldwide online or through the TuneIn Radio app (search for KSLU). Fans can keep up with the game through live statistics or by following @SLUathletics on Twitter.

Streaming video is available on LionVision, Southeastern’s subscription-based video stream.

Links for audio, video, stats, gameday promotions and tickets can be found on the baseball schedule page at www.LionSports.net.

Southeastern 3, Sam Houston State 2 (May 06, 2017 at Hammond, La.)
———————————————————————————
Sam Houston State… 000 100 100 – 2 8 0 (30-17, 15-8)
Southeastern…………. 000 100 02X – 3 7 1 (31-15, 17-9)
———————————————————————————
Pitchers: Sam Houston State – Backhus, Kyle; Robinson, Dominic (6); Mikolajchak, Nick (8); Demco, Brad (8) and Rojas, Robie. Southeastern – Gaconi, Corey; Robinson, Payton (8) and Pace, Evan.

Win-Robinson, Payton (4-0) Loss-Mikolajchak, Nick (0-2) T-2:33 A-1071
HR SLU – Byers, Ryan.
Weather: Sunny 79, WSW 7 mph
Mikolajchak, faced 2 batters in the 8th.

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Damon Sunde

Damon Sunde

Associate Director of Sports Information, Southeastern Louisiana University

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