May 30—HAMMOND, La. — After winning four straight elimination games to reach the Southland Conference Tournament title game, the Sam Houston Bearkats came up just short of a championship on Saturday night.
Sam Houston senior Kyle Backhus delivered one of the most dominant performances of his college career during his final game in a Bearkat uniform, but the offense — which scored 43 runs during the previous three games — was held to just one run in a 2-1 loss to McNeese.
“Their pitching was really good, and KB pitched his guts out. After the last few wild ones we had, there’s no shame in the way that thing went,” Sam Houston head coach Jay Sirianni said. “We went out and competed and played really hard. It’s baseball, and it’s a tough way to end it.”
The Cowboys received all their scoring on a two-run home run from tournament MVP Clayton Rasbeary on their second at-bat of the game. It was all they would need, however, as Will Dion, Bryson Hudgens and Cameron Foster combined to strike out 13 batters and strand eight runners on base.
Pitching on just one day’s rest, Backhus went the distance for Sam Houston, striking out six with no walks, three hits and one earned run allowed in a career-high eight innings. After giving up a home run to Rasbeary in the first, he proceeded to retire the next 15 batters he faced, before getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth.
“Pitching on one day’s rest, the joke is I have a rubber arm … but I was just doing it for these guys,” Backhus said.
“The journey KB has been on has been incredible, in all forms and fashion,” Sirianni added. “His character is impeccable and he works his tail off. I’m extremely proud of the kid.”
Colton Cowser drove in Anthony MacKenzie for the Bearkats’ only run in the top of the third. Jackson Loftin appeared to tie the game on a passed ball in the fifth after making a swim move to avoid the tag at the plate, but was called out on the field, with not enough video evidence to overturn the ruling.
Cowser, Jack Rogers, Blake Faecher and Lance Lusk represented Sam Houston on the Southland Conference All-Tournament team. Rogers and Faecher each set tournament records with 12 runs and 12 RBIs, respectively.
After losing their tournament opener to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Wednesday, the Bearkats proceeded to win four consecutive elimination games — including two in a row against Abilene Christian to bounce the No. 1 seed from the tournament.
“This team has been through a lot of adversity, and it just showed how hard we worked,” Cowser said. “Everybody was playing for each other.”
“It’s been one of the more incredible rides I’ve ever been a part of,” Sirianni added. “After we lost the first one I said, ‘If anybody can come back, it’s us,’ and these guys jumped on it and played their hearts out. It’s sad the way it ended, but that’s baseball — and we’ll be back.”