May 25, 2012
SAN MARCOS, Texas - Preston Beck's walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth has UT Arlington playing for the Southland Conference championship after a dramatic 7-6 victory over No. 1 seed Sam Houston on Friday afternoon at Bobcat Ballpark.
The fourth-seeded Mavericks (35-23) are 3-0 in the double-elimination tourney after eliminating the Bearkats. UTA will face either Southeastern Louisiana or Stephen F. Austin in the championship game Saturday at 5 p.m. SLU and SFA are playing Saturday at 1 p.m.
The Mavericks are in search of their first SLC Tournament title and NCAA playoff berth since 2006. Complete coverage of the SLC Tournament is available at southland.org.
Beck admitted that he was looking for the kill shot after what had been a tough day at the plate.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say it was in the back of my mind," said Beck, who was hitless in his first four at-bats. "But I wasn't swinging to hit a home run."
The Mavericks were in control for most of Friday's game and didn't trail until the eighth inning. Sam Houston took its first lead on Kevin Miller's three-run homer off UTA reliever Adam Boydston.
UTA came back in the bottom of the inning. Preston Morrow singled to lead off before Sam Houston got two quick outs. Greg McCall kept the rally alive with a hit. Travis Sibley then rolled one through the left side that scored Morrow from second to make it 6-6.
The Mavericks had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth thanks to a spectacular defensive play by shortstop Ryan Walker. The Bearkats loaded the bases with two outs of Boydston when Miller lined grounder up the middle. Walker dove, made the stop and flipped the ball to Michael Guerra to end the inning.
"I wanted to ball," Walker said. "I'm there to make plays. I knew I had to give it my all to get it."
Beck took advantage of that chance by sending an offering from Sam Houston reliever Michael Burchett high over the wall in right. Beck leads the SLC with 12 bombs, none sweeter than the last one.
"Pure jubilation," Beck said. "Seeing the guys pour out of the dugout was priceless."
Matt Shortall also homered, while Walker and Sibley each had three hits for the Mavericks.
The Mavericks put the pressure on in a hurry on Sam Houston, which beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi earlier in the day for the right to face UTA. Jake Pinchback led off with a walk. Walker planned to move Pinchback to second with a sacrifice bunt, but the Walker reached as well when the ball died on the chalk and Sam Houston failed to make a play.
Pinchback and Walker moved up a base on a wild pitch from Bearkats starter Cody Dickson. Both would score on consecutive RBI groundouts by Preston Beck and Michael Guerra, giving UTA starter Michael Oberto a 2-0 lead going into the second inning.
Sam Houston countered with a run in the second on doubles from Ryan O'Hearn and Jake Arrington, the latter scoring the former.
Oberto's day was done when the Bearkats got runners at the corners with none out in the fourth. Colin Reynolds came on, and though Sam Houston tied the game, the Mavericks dodged a major bullet.
Sam Houston's Jake Arrington sent a drive that UTA left fielder Preston Morrow snagged at the top of the wall. The Mavericks were able to Bearkats runner Anthony Azar at first, while O'Hearn scored. The tie score didn't last long.
Shortall homered to left in the bottom of the fourth, putting the Mavericks up 3-2. UTA added another run on Walker's RBI single to left that plated Greg McCall.
The Mavericks padded the lead in the sixth with an RBI single from Sibley.