Last Modified: Thursday, May 23, 2013 1:22 PM
SUGAR LAND, Texas — Kevin Miller’s three-run home run highlighted a four-run eighth inning and propelled Sam Houston State to an 8-3 over McNeese State Wednesday in the opening round of the Southland Conference baseball tournament.
“I’m not usually one to get under the ball that much,” said Miller, describing his fourth career home run. “I guess I missed it you could say. I was trying to drive Colt (Atwood) in. I was trying to get on top of it and drive it through the infield. I’m happy it went out. Whenever they walked (Anthony) Azar, I was just trying to do my job and poke it to the outfield.”
The Bearkats (37-18), the tournament’s No. 1 seed, will play Southeastern Louisiana, a 5-3 winner over Lamar Wednesday night, while the No. 8 Cowboys (23-30) will play Lamar at noon Thursday in an elimination game.
“I thought we played pretty good for seven innings but then they had a couple of big innings that helped them win the ballgame,” said Cowboys head coach Terry Burrows. “The game changed when their guy hit the three-run homer. We made some mistakes early and also had our opportunities to win the game and didn’t. We just got to come out and tomorrow and win.”
Sam Houston starter Tyler Eppler (5-2) threw seven innings and allowed two runs — one earned — on three hits. He fanned one and walked two. Jason Sims earned his ninth save of the season, allowing one run on two hits in his two innings of work.
“He gave us seven great innings,” said Bearkats coach David Pierce. “His pitch count was down and I thought they were getting good swings on him. He was upset that he came out, but he understands that we had to go to our best line and we did. Eppler was really good.”
Blake Ware (5-7) went 72⁄3 innings and was responsible for the eight runs and 10 hits. He became the 12th pitcher in McNeese history to toss 100 innings or more in a season.
“Blake held us in there for the seven innings and did well,” Burrows said. “To their credit they got some good hits and we had our chances to get out of some innings early but didn’t so that’s something we will learn from. But Blake did well and kept us in the game.”
“He did a good job for us and kept us in the game and we didn’t score the runs when we needed to,” Burrows said.
Lucas Quary was 2-for-4 with a run scored for the Cowboys. Jessie Plumlee, Atwood and Carter Burgess each finished with two of the Bearkats’ 10 hits.
The Bearkats took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Burgess singled to left field, allowing Luke Plucheck to score. Burgess attempted to steal home on a passed ball but was thrown out a to end the inning.
Quary singled up the middle in the fifth inning. Connor Lloyd followed with a double down the left-field line to score Quary and tie it 1-1.
But Sam Houston State scored three runs in the bottom of the inning. Burgess started things with a double followed by Ryan O’Hearn’s RBI single for a 2-1 lead. Plumlee and Atwood followed with RBI singles for a 4-1 lead.
McNeese scored one run in each of the seventh and eighth innings to make it a one-run game.
“We have to do what we have to do,” Burrows said. “King Bryce (Kingsley) will pitch and he has given us a chance to win in every game, just about. We have to win, it’s obvious, and they know what’s on the line.”