NACOGDOCHES – After running off 13-straight Southland Conference victories to begin the season, Sam Houston State’s streak ended Friday afternoon.
Sam Houston stranded 10 runners and managed six hits, three coming from Andrew Fregia, dropping the middle game, 5-1, to Stephen F. Austin from Jaycees Field. The Bearkats will try for their 14th-consecutive league series victory during Saturday’s 1 p.m. rubber match.
Friday’s loss snapped Sam Houston’s 18-game league winning streak, the longest in conference history, dating to May 8, 2016. The Kats finished one win shy of matching Lamar’s 14-0 start to Southland play in 1984, which stands as the best beginning to a season.
Seth Ballew (4-2) was saddled with the loss, permitting seven hits and four runs (two earned) while fanning four and allowing one walk. Riley Cooper entered, keeping Sam Houston (25-10, 13-1 SLC) in contention, allowing just one hit, a solo home run in the eighth, while striking out four in as many frames.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Stephen F. Austin (21-16, 10-4 SLC) began the scoring in the second, taking advantage of a pair of two-out singles and a throwing error, allowing Alex Hrinevich to plate.
Miscues continued to hinder the Bearkats in the fourth as a leadoff walk and throwing error were accompanied by three Lumberjacks hits, extending the home advantage to 4-0.
Sam Houston put runners aboard in four of the first five innings but came up empty. The Bearkats but a run across in the sixth as Fregia led off the frame with a double down the left-field line and came home to score as Rojas drove a ball into right for a sacrifice fly.
With runners aboard first and second, pinch-hitter Blake Chisolm struck out, but the duo moved into scoring position on a wild pitch with Fregia up. The third baseman would round a 2-1 pitch to short, leaving the two aboard.
Zac Michener, who finished 2-for-4, struck for a two-out solo homer in the eighth, extending the Lumberjacks lead to 5-1. Facing SFA closer Tyler Starks in the ninth, Lance Miles led off with a walk and Bryce Johnson drew a two-out free pass but the Kats could muster nothing further.
Head coach Matt Deggs on the first loss in Southland Conference play…
“It’s pretty amazing to get your first conference loss after 14 games. I am super proud of our guys. That’s an incredible start. I have been doing this longer than any of these kids have been alive. I’ve never had a start like this or gone on an 18-game win streak in the league. What we need to do is put it into perspective, enjoy it for what it is and tip our caps to SFA. They played really good baseball. We hit some balls hard, we could just never break through. It was a grind for us. When you play enough of these, you’re going to play games like this. We’ll have to come back and have chance to come win a series tomorrow.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the offensive difficulties and approach for Saturday…
“We just need to keep swinging and getting good pitches to hit. Let’s get above it and keep hitting it hard. That’s been who we are. That’s the way we’ve always gone about business … just keep continuing to grind. That’s a good ballclub over there. I can’t say enough about the run we’ve been on. That’s all we can do is limit the mistakes and the loss and come back and respond tomorrow.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the added benefit of having a reliever like Riley Cooper…
“It’s gigantic. If we could have gotten something going, he’s going to get a win right there. He gave us a chance by matching zeroes and gave us a chance to score. I am super proud of that kid.”