LUBBOCK – An eight-run explosion in the second inning was more than enough for the Sam Houston State Bearkats on Sunday at the Lubbock Regional as they rode that inning to a 9-3 win over Arizona at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park.
It was the second win of the regional for Sam Houston (42-21) over the Wildcats (38-21), one year after Arizona handed the Kats a pair of losses at the 2016 Lafayette Regional.
The win propels the Bearkats into the regional final against the No. 5 national seed and host Texas Tech. Sam Houston will need to defeat the Red Raiders in consecutive games to advance to the first Super Regional in program history. First pitch of Game 1 of the final is set for 6 p.m. with a Bearkat victory forcing an if-necessary game to be played on Monday at 2 p.m.
AT THE PLATE
Robie Rojas continued his strong surge at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a two of Sam Houston's four doubles and an RBI to lead the Bearkats. Andrew Fregia also had a pair of hits and three RBI, while Bryce Johnson delivered 2-run single in the second and added a double in the fourth to finish 2-for-4 on the day with a run scored.
The Wildcats out-hit Sam Houston 10-9, including three doubles and a ninth-inning leadoff home run by Louis Boyd, but the Bearkats were able to take advantage of five walks and two hit batters. Meanwhile, Arizona was just 4-for-18 with runners on base and left 10 on to just four for Sam Houston.
ON THE BUMP
Left-hander Seth Ballew got the start for the Bearkats and spun three scoreless frames before surrendering a pair of runs in the fourth. He gave way to Hayden Wesneski in the fourth and after giving up two RBI singles to the first two hitters he faced, proceeded to retire 14 of the next 18 hitters. The freshman finished with 6.0 innings of work in just his fifth relief appearance of the year, striking out three to pick up his team-best 10th victory of the year.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats used six pitchers on the day with starter Cody Deason taking the loss, falling to 5-3 on the season. The sophomore right-hander allowed seven runs on four hits and three walks in just 1.2 innings, the most runs he had allowed this year and only the first time he had allowed more than three runs in any of his 10 starts.
HOW IT HAPPENED
An RBI single from Fregia in the first inning scored Riley McKnight and gave the Bearkats an early 1-0 lead, but it was the second inning when Sam Houston really took control.
The Kats sent 11 hitters to the plate and pushed eight runs across against a pair of Wildcat pitchers, all with two outs to break the game open with a 9-0 lead. Rojas had a big part of the inning with a pair of doubles, the first of which went off the right-field wall to open the inning. Deason then issued a walk to Jaxxon Grisham before retiring the next two hitters, but that is when the damage got going.
Consecutive walks to Taylor Beene and McKnight made it a 2-0 game and Johnson followed with a 2-run single to double the lead. Fregia then brought home both McKnight and Johnson with a 2-run double, ending the day for the Arizona starting pitcher. The Bearkats were not done as Clayton Harp greeted reliever Landon Faulkner with an RBI single, followed by Rojas' second double of the inning to make it 8-0. Grisham then capped the inning with his first hit of the day, a single to right field to score Rojas.
Ballew followed by working around a leadoff double by Boyd to keep Arizona off the board, but an inning later the Kats were not so fortunate. The Wildcats got each of their first two batters of the inning on base, forcing Sam Houston to bring in Wesneski from the bullpen. The Bearkat freshman allowed a pair of RBI singles to Nick Quintana and Cesar Salazar to trim the lead to 9-2, but then got a key double play when Boyd hit a line shot into the glove of Hunter Hearn at first base. Hearn proceeded to step on first base to complete the double play and then Wesneski got Cal Stevenson to ground out harmlessly to prevent any further damage.
Arizona would get a solo homer from Boyd to lead off the top of the ninth, but that would be it as Wesneski would retire three of the final four Wildcat hitters to close it out and send the Kats to the regional final.
- The victory gives the Bearkats their second win of the Lubbock Regional, sending them into the regional final against Texas Tech. It is the third time Sam Houston has advanced to a regional final, the last coming in the 2012 Rice Regional and also in Oxford, Miss., in 2007.
- Bryce Johnson entered the day with 85 hits to his season ledger and added two more to that total against the Wildcats. His 87 hits in 2017 is the eighth most in a single season in Bearkat history.
- When the Bearkats erupted for eight runs in the bottom of the eighth it tied the most runs Sam Houston has scored in an inning this season. The Kats also scored eight times in the sixth inning of its 19-12 victory at Abilene Christian in the second game of a doubleheader on April 1.