Sam Houston eliminates USM in wild affair

Southern Mississippi shortstop Brian Dozier summed it up better than anyone.

"It was the craziest game I've ever been a part of," said Dozier who was 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored in the Golden Eagles' 12-11 loss to Sam Houston State in an elimination game at the Oxford Regional Sunday afternoon. "But baseball can be a crazy game."

Few had witnessed one more "crazy" than this. But that's the way things can be in Game Five of an NCAA Regional. It's the first game of day three, and a lot of runs are normally scored.

USM scored three runs in the second to take control of the game early, but history tells us three runs wouldn't be nearly enough. Although when the second-seeded Golden Eagles grabbed a 7-1 lead by seventh-inning stretch time, it appeared the fourth-seeded Bearkats might not be able to mount a comeback of major proportions, which was needed at that late time in the contest.

But Sam Houston State, the home team in this one, scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and two more in the eighth to not only make this one more than interesting but tie things up 7-7 after eight complete.

The fireworks had just begun. After USM scored two in the top of the ninth for a 9-7 lead, SHSU tied up with two runs in the bottom of the ninth for extra baseball.

Both teams scored a run in the 10th and in the 11th the Bearkats got the win. After USM took an 11-10 lead, the Kats got two runs all with two outs.

USM reliever Ryan Belanger, who started the Golden Eagles' first game of the tourney, a 14-1 win over Troy, came in to get one out after two were on base, according to USM head coach Corky Palmer. But he wasn't able to.

"I thought he could get us an out with his curve ball," said Palmer, whose team ended its season ended 39-23. "Sam Houston State just hit him."

SHSU put together four straight singles - two off J.R. Ballinger and two off Ryan Belanger - for the two runs and the victory.

Southern Miss used six pitchers; Sam Houston State used five. Sam Houston had 18 hits and USM 17.

"That was a tough college baseball game," Palmer said. "Our players played mighty hard. Give Sam Houston State and Coach Mark Johnson a lot of credit. We gave it our best shot; it just wasn't in the cards."

The Bearkats (40-23) advanced to face Ole Miss in the second game Sunday.

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