Lumberjacks Headed to SLC Tournament
May 19, 2007
NACOGDOCHES - A lot of firsts happened on the Stephen F. Austin baseball field Saturday afternoon. A 12-9 Lumberjack defeat of the Sam Houston State Bearkats (34-22, 18-12) in the regular season finale ensured SFA an appearance in the Southland Conference Championship Tournament for the first time in school history. The victory was also the Lumberjacks'(30-26, 17-13) 30th win of the season, marking the 30-win season since SFA became a Division I institution in 1987.
With the win, the Lumberjacks overall conference record is 17-13 and secured them the sixth and final spot in the league tournament. SFA will face No. 1 seed Texas-San Antonio Wednesday at 11 a.m. in Natchitoches, La., in the double-elimination tournament. The 3 p.m. contest will pit No. 2 Lamar against No. 4 McNeese State while No. 4 Texas State and No. 5 Sam Houston State will face off at 7 p.m. All games will be played at Brown-Stroud Field on the campus of Northwestern State.
The Lumberjacks got things started quickly as lead off hitter Zach Gardner put a triple to left center after a nine-pitch at-bat to start the game. Gardner then crossed the plate on a balk from the Sam Houston starter. After Noel Trevino walked and reached second on a Steven Hill base hit, the pair moved over on a wild pitch. Then, with one out, Jared Pitts singled up the middle to score both runners and send the score to 3-0.
The Bearkats scored a run in the top of the second, but the Lumberjacks extended the distance in the bottom of the third when Hill, who had been issued a walk, scored on Chris Smith's double to right center. Smith scored for the 5-1 lead off a double from Kevin Crabtree.
Sam Houston put together a two-run fifth inning to cut the lead to two at 5-3, but SFA responded with two runs of its own to take a 7-3 lead. But the Bearkats ended up tying when they scored four runs in the top of the sixth off four hits.
In the sixth, SFA jumped ahead by three. After pinch hitter David Jeans walked and moved to second on a Jeff Brewer groundout, Kevin Croft hit his 11th home run of the year - a two-run blast to left center field. Then, lead-off hitter Gardner hit a solo shot to left field to give the Lumberjacks their first back-to-back combo of the year. The home runs put SFA head 10-7 heading into the final three frames of the ballgame.
After holding Sam Houston scoreless in the seventh, Jeans and Brewer hit consecutive singles to get on first and second with one out. Then the pair pulled a double steal of second and third before Jeans scored on a sac fly from Croft. Brewer then scored on a balk from reliever Stephen Price to give SFA a 12-7 advantage.
Then as neither team crossed the plate in the eighth inning, the Lumberjacks remained only three outs away from their first SLC tournament berth. With Russ Fornea on the mound, Jeremy Holzbach was issued a lead-off walk. He moved to second when Steven Spaugh singled to center field. The runners moved over a base after Aaron Cook grounded out to shortstop as the top of the Bearkats' order was due up. Lead-off hitter Clint Mann singled through the right side to send Holzbach across the plate and shorten SFA's lead to 12-8. With only one out, Keith Stein singled to deep shortstop to send Spaugh across the dish to bring the Bearkats within three, 12-9. SFA reliever and saves leader Richard Folmer was called in with Sam Houston power hitter Bobby Verbick, who represented the tying run, at the plate. Folmer struck out Verbick on a called strike before getting clean-up hitter Karl Krailo to fly out to left fielder Kevin Crabtree for the final out of the game. The win gave Folmer his fourth save of the year.
Gardner, Smith and Crabtree each collected two hits as Smith and Croft drove in three runs apiece. Hill scored three runs in a 1-for-2 performance.
Jacob Leonhardt earned the win after relieving for only two-thirds of an inning. He improves to 2-1 on the year. Bearkat reliever Matt Fry falls to 0-2 on the year.
Prior to today's contest, the first Lumberjack senior class since the return of baseball, comprised of Jeremy Arterburn, Josh Bone, Kyle Freeman, Steven Hill, David Jeans, Jacob Leonhardt, Lance Luetge, Chris Smith and Chance Tabor, was honored with their parents at home plate.