HUNTSVILLE, Texas _ The league-leading Sam Houston State Bearkats blew open a 1-1 game with four runs in the fifth inning to beat the University of Central Arkansas Bears 7-3 in Southland Conference action on Thursday night at Don Sanders Stadium.

The victory gave the Bearkats (34-18, 18-7) the regular-season SLC title. UCA dropped to 34-17 overall and 12-13 in league play. Game 2 of the series is set for 6:30 Friday. The teams close the regular season at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The Bears took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second on Michael Marietta’s double and Scott Zimmerle’s sacrifice fly. The Bearkats tied it in the bottom of the inning when Luke Pluchek doubled, went to third on a groundout and then stole home.

Facing UCA’s Caleb McClanahan, who entered with an SLC-best earned-run average of 1.68, the Bearkats tallied four runs on four hits in the fifth, including RBI doubles by Casey Atwood and Anthony Azar.

After SHSU made it 7-1 in the seventh, the Bears,who have lost three consecutive conference games, got two runs back in the eighth. Forrestt Allday walked and Jonathan Davis was hit by a pitch. Ethan Harris singled up the middle to score Allday and move Davis to third. He eventually scored on a passed ball to cut the deficit to 7-3.

McClanahan fell to 9-5 with the loss. allowing 10 hits and seven earned runs. SHSU’s Tyler Eppler (4-2) allowed just 4 hits and one earned run in seven innings.

Harris finished 2 for 3 with an RBI for the Bears, while Marietta was 2 for 4. Six different players had two hits each for the Bearkats, while Azar had a team-high three RBI.