COLLEGE STATION – If it's mid-May at Blue Bell Park, it probably means Dakota Mills is doing something dominant on the mound. At least that is the way it seems.
Nearly a year after shutting out Texas A&M, the right-hander kept the No. 22 Aggies off the board for six innings, leading Sam Houston State to a 8-2 victory in front of 4,968 fans on Tuesday night.
The redshirt junior (6-3), whose only blemish was allowing back-to-back two-out home runs in the seventh, matched a career high with six strikeouts while scattering six hits without allowing a walk. His 6 2-3 innings also matched a career-high – set 364 days prior against the Aggies (35-18).
Sam Houston (33-20) erupted for a five-run fifth inning, scoring three with two down including a two-run homer from Robie Rojas over the wall in left. The Bearkats chased Texas A&M starter Turner Larkins (1-2) from the game while sending eight hitters to the plate.
Bryce Johnson began the scoring, shooting an RBI single up the middle. The hit was the 219th of his career as the junior moved into sole possession of 10th place in program history for the category. The center fielder reached base five times, finishing 2-for-2 with a pair of runs.
The win marked the sixth-straight midweek victory, the first time Sam Houston had accomplished the feat since 2000. It was also the fourth victory against the Aggies in the last six meetings and was the fifth win of the season against a top-25 opponent.
The team will look to carry the momentum into the final weekend of Southland Conference play, hosting Incarnate Word for a three-game set beginning Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sam Houston overcame a fielder's choice double play in the first, using a two-out single from Clayton Harp to grab the early 1-0 lead.
From there Mills went to work, striking out a pair in his first four innings of scoreless work before the Bearkat offense broke it open in the top of the fifth. The Kats got to Larkins and Aggie reliever John Doxakis for five runs in the frame, opening it up with a walk to Jaxxon Grisham and a bunt single from Taylor Beene. Then, after a sacrifice bunt by Riley McKnight, Johnson rocketed an RBI single back up the middle to up the lead to 2-0.
An RBI grounder from Andrew Fregia made it 3-0 and two batters later Harp got his second RBI of the night with an RBI single off of Doxakis. One batter later Robie Rojas delivered the game's big blow, launching a two-run homer out to left field to give Mills a comfortable 6-0 lead going to the bottom of the fifth.
The junior righty then responded with a shutdown fifth and struck out two more in a 1-2-3 sixth and the Kats entered the seventh still with a six-run cushion.
Fregia pushed the lead to 7-0 with an RBI single in the top half of the seventh, but after retiring the first two Aggies of the inning, Texas A&M finally got to him as pinch hitters Hunter Coleman and Baine Schoenvogel touched Mills up for back-to-back solo homers to cut the lead to 7-2.
A single and the first Bearkat error of the night gave the Aggies a two-out rally in the works, but reliever Riley Cooper got Nick Chorby to hit a grounder to short to kill the threat.
Cooper put up another zero in the eighth and the Kats got one of the runs back in the top half of the ninth when Beene smacked a leadoff double to left and scored two batters later on a wild pitch. From there, Cooper did the rest, setting Texas A&M down in order in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win.
Head coach Matt Deggs on the performance from Dakota Mills…
“I thought he did a really good job keeping them off balance. He worked both sides of the plate with the fastball and able to spin that slider to keep them off the fastball. That's a really good ballclub over there. Obviously, I am very close with those guys. To be able to come into this ballpark tonight is a big win. He's kind of been a utility guy but I knew he is comfortable out here.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on stringing together midweek wins...
“That's the way we're capable of playing. Unfortunately, it hasn't translated every weekend in the league. Part of that is our league is a dogfight. On Tuesday nights, we have been extremely hooked up and ready to go … just giving other teams fits. We're trying to put that together for a stretch run.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the momentum that can be gained…
“Any time you win against a really good team in their ballpark it's going to give you confidence and momentum. That's what this game is about. College baseball is all about getting hot at the right time and riding that wave as long as you can. We'll go back to work tomorrow and get ready for UIW this weekend.”