The Prairie View A&M baseball team suffered their second-consecutive emotional loss in the Houston Regional of the NCAA Tournament, dropping a 4-2 game to Sam Houston State in dramatic fashion Saturday afternoon at Reckling Park.
The SWAC Conference Tournament Champion Panthers found themselves one solid hit to the outfield away from extending their season. The Panthers worked their way to bases loaded with no outs for sophomore first baseman Dominiq Harris in the bottom of the ninth trailing 4-2, but Harris’ infield fly didn’t put any runs on the board. Senior catcher Evan Richard, in the same situation worked his way to a full count, but he struck out swinging. Michael Long, the Panthers last chance, hit into a fielders choice and the Panthers’ saw their historic season come to an end. The 2012 Prairie View A&M baseball team finished as just the third team in school history to reach an NCAA Regional.
The Panthers struck first, getting runners at the corners thanks to two fielding errors by the Sam Houston State in the bottom of the second with one out on the board for right fielder Darryl Johnson. On a full count, Johnson had the plate discipline to draw a walk and load the bases for second baseman Andre Oliver, who took a first-pitch fast ball to deep left field to score Evan Richard on a sacrifice fly. Prairie View A&M took a 1-0 lead.
Prairie View A&M starter Stef Hernandez’ streak of 13-consecutive scoreless innings thrown ended in the top of the fifth-inning against Sam Houston State thanks to an error-filled top of the inning, which led to an unravelling of the Panthers small lead and the Bearkats gaining control of the game. An error, a drag bunt and another error left Hernandez with the bases loaded and no outs. SHSU left center fielder Colt Atwood hit a two-RBI single on a line to centerfield to give the Bearkats the lead. Then left fielder Luke Pluchek drove in a run on a fielders choice as his team took the 3-1 lead.
The Panthers had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the eighth for left fielder Darryl Johnson. He drew a walk and got the RBI as Dominiq Harris scored from third. However, Andre Oliver grounded into a 4-3 double play to put an end to the Panthers’ rally.
Sam Houston State tacked on another run in the top of the ninth before Hernandez was relieved for Steven Lunsford. Hernandez went 8 1/3 innings, giving up four runs (two earned) off of six hits. He also had five strikeouts for the Panthers in their final game of their 2012 historic season.
Head Coach Waskyla Cullivan Opening Statement
We played another good game. Stef Hernandez did a good job. There was that one big inning where we gave up three runs in one inning. And there was a little shaky defense on the bunt coverages. Other than that we out-hit them today. Both teams had three errors and that was big. We had a chance in the last inning to win the game and had the bases load no outs and just fell short at the end.
On giving up three runs in 5th inning:
It was definitely tough because we built the program on pitching and defense and we’ve been consistent all year in pitching and defense. We just weren’t strong on bunt coverages. We weren’t aggressive on bunt defense and that’s how they got their big inning – just poor bunt defense. But other than that I think it was a well-played game.
On missed bunt coverages:
The bunt coverage is consistent. With a runner on first and second, we usually have the third baseman hold and the first baseman crash. We always teach third baseman to be very aggressive. He just went back to the bag and fell short on that end. We had another bunt coverage where the first baseman is supposed to crash and the second baseman rotate and the third baseman retreat back. Just poor communication and we weren’t aggressive enough defensively.
On expectations for the program:
We came out and the goal was very high. We’ve got high expectations. Moral victories are kind of old news for our program. We knew we could come out and have a chance to win this regional. We fell short but we’re a Division I program so the goal is to get to Omaha just like all Division 1 programs in the country. The program is moving forward and the best days are yet to come.
Starting pitcher Stef Hernandez
Honestly I didn’t really have my best stuff out there. But thankfully I was effectively wild, I guess you could say, and they were missing. I could have been better and things could have been different, but that’s baseball.
Third baseman Brad Benes
On playing in NCAA tournament:
It was a great experience. Every kid dreams about this growing up. I know all of us are just happy to be part of it. We do have a lot to work on but we’re gonna get after it and hopefully we’ll be back next year.
On bases loaded, 0 out situation in bottom of 9th inning:
With based loaded, nobody out, you gotta try and push one across any way you can. Luckily we had some guys up there that we have faith in, but sometimes it just doesn’t bounce your way. It just happened. It’s baseball.