HUNTSVILLE – With two full days of focus on converting with two outs, Sam Houston State put its plan into action in Friday’s Southland Conference opener.
Sam Houston used six consecutive two-out singles to match its biggest inning of the season, adding five runs in the fifth, as part of a 9-4 victory against Lamar at Don Sanders Stadium.
The Bearkats (9-5, 1-0 SLC) were led by Andrew Fregia who extended his hitting streak to eight games, finishing a home run shy of the cycle, going 3 of 4 while matching a career-best three runs and adding an RBI.
Robie Rojas, Taylor Beene and Riley McKnight each added a pair of hits as part of 13 total for the Kats in a game that was delayed an hour and a half due to heavy thunderstorms rolling through the area.
Sam Houston starter Heath Donica (3-1) was tested early but came through with another stellar performance, fanning nine Cardinals (8-6, 0-1 SLC) hitters, scattering seven hits in as many innings without allowing a walk. Nick Mikolajchak closed out the game for the Kats, striking out a pair in the ninth.
Lamar starter Tanner Driskill (1-2), who entered the game with a 1.83 ERA, was touched up for 11 hits and eight runs while walking a pair – his first two of the season – and striking out as many. The right-hander lasted 4 2-3 innings before giving way to Brent Janak, who permitted two hits and one run in the final 3 1-3 innings.
HOW IT HAPPENED
After struggling with two-out hits in a one-run loss on Tuesday against Baylor, the Bearkats showed strong improvement on Friday, using six straight, two-out hits in the fifth including a two-run single through the left side from McKnight, who posted his second multi-RBI game.
With two down in the fifth, Fregia reached on a hit by pitch, keeping the frame alive. The bats did the rest as Blake Chisolm ripped a double to left center, scoring the speedy sophomore from first. Rojas, Hunter Hearn, Beene and McKnight tallied four straight singles, extending the lead to 8-1.
The Kats tacked on an insurance run in the sixth, again with two outs. Fregia lined a single into center and took second as Chisolm was hit by his sixth pitch of the season. Rojas followed, drilling the second pitch he saw into left for an RBI single and 9-1 advantage.
Sam Houston got on the board first, scoring a run in the second as Bryce Johnson singled home McKnight, who recorded his first triple of the season on a 1-2 pitch with two down. Lamar knotted things up in the third, striking for three singles off Donica including an RBI into left from Robin Adames.
The Kats responded immediately, scoring two runs in the bottom half. Lance Miles led off with a single through the right side and came around to score from first as Fregia belted his ninth career triple off the center-field wall for a 2-1 lead. Chisolm followed with a sacrifice fly.
Sam Houston looks to clinch its 14th straight home Southland Conference three-game series on Saturday, taking on Lamar in the middle game at 3 p.m. Tickets are available through GoBearkats.com.
Head coach Matt Deggs on the conference-opening victory…
“I thought we played great tonight, especially after sitting through a long rain delay. I thought we were ready to go and did a great job setting the tone. Heater did a great job for us and I thought we did a great job battling against a quality arm. What we did better than anything tonight was getting back to who we are and that’s scoring with two outs and nothing going.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the two-out production and Donica …
“That’s something that has been tough to come by so far. I think that’s a product of our schedule and some of the arms we have faced. Tonight, we were able to cash in, especially with two outs. I can’t say enough about what we did offensively but really, what Heath Donica continues to go out and do every Friday night, sets a great tone.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the five-run fifth inning …
“It started with the two-out hit by pitch. Then, we’re able to drive him in with a long double. It opened up from there. It got real contagious real quick. We were able to spin the game a little bit.”
Starting pitcher Heath Donica on his outing…
“That Lamar team can really swing it. That’s a good team over there. One thing that really helped me was our offense. They got to their guy and got some big hits. They allowed me to catch my breath a little more during those middle innings while I was in the dugout. The first few innings, I had some long ones. When we started scoring runs, it really let me settle in and execute the game plan.”
Right fielder Riley McKnight on coming through with two outs…
“That was a key point this week in practice. In our games in the past, we had been leaving lots of runners on with two outs and one out. We really emphasized that. We knew the guy on the mound was going to fill it up. We were going to swinging the bat. We got the big hits where we needed them and everyone was just clicking on all cylinders tonight on the offensive side.”