HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats got two strong starts and two game’s worth of timely hitting in sweeping a Friday doubleheader from Cincinnati at Don Sanders Stadium.
The Kats won their third and fourth games in a row of the season on Friday behind strong starts from both Riley Gossett and Seth Ballew. Sam Houston would score just eight runs in the two games, but six came with two outs while the other two came with one out in the bottom of the ninth on Ben Haefner’s walk-off single in the nightcap.
Hunter Hearn would go 4-for-7 on the day with a pair of RBI in the two games while Clayton Harp would pick up a pair of hits in the second game and Trey Ochoa two of his own in the opener.
Sam Houston will go for the series sweep on Saturday when they take on the Bearcats in what is scheduled for a noon start with Hayden Wesneski set to get the start on the mound.
Game 1 (Box Score)
Sam Houston 5, Cincinnati 3
The Bearkats scored all five of their runs with two outs and never trailed in taking Game 1 of Friday’s doubleheader, 5-3, over the Bearcats.
Gossett was outstanding in his first start of the season, allowing just two runs – one earned – in 6.1 innings of work. The redshirt sophomore fired 59 of his 83 pitches for strikes, punching out five while allowing just one walk and five hits in picking up his first win of the year.
Sam Houston put together nine hits, including multi-hit games from Trey Ochoa and Hunter Hearn to help Gossett’s start stand up. Dominic Robinson would allow a run in 0.2 innings, while Nick Mikolajchak would put out an eighth-inning fire before running through a clean ninth for a 2.0-inning save, the first of the season for him.
Cincinnati got three hits from Manny Rodriguez, but finished with just five in the game as a team. JT Perez took the loss despite a solid start, allowing four runs with five strikeouts in 6.0 innings of work.
The Kats scratched the scoreboard in each of the first four frames against Perez with each run coming with two outs, and two driven in by Hearn and the other two by Cannon. Hearn picked his up by rocketing a two-out double into the left field corner in the first to score Ochoa from first in the opening frame and then cranked a solo homer in the third.
Cannon also picked up his first two RBI of the year with a double in the bottom of the second to score Chase Cryer, giving the Kats a 2-1 lead at the time after Cincinnati had tied it up with an unearned run in the top of the frame. Two innings later he would bring home Haefner with an RBI ground out to make it a 4-1 ballgame.
Cincinnati would get a run back in the seventh and then one more in the eighth, but it was Mikolajchak who would enter to quell the damage, keeping the tying run on third base after the Bearcats had two runners on and no outs against Robinson. The Kats would then add one more insurance run in the ninth, taking advantage of a Cincinnati error on a two-out RBI single from Riley McKnight.
Game 2 (Box Score)
Sam Houston 3, Cincinnati 2
Cincinnati scored a pair of runs with two outs in the ninth to take its first lead of the game, but the Kats answered with two of their own on a single from Haefner to walk-off with a 3-2 win in the nightcap of the day’s doubleheader.
The hit was in the only at-bat of the game for Haefner who had entered as a late-game defensive replacement, but the senior transfer from Buffalo made it count. Hits from Hearn and Harp were followed by an intentional walk to Ochoa to load the bases with one out and Haefner lined a 2-1 pitch into the left-field corner to send home a pair of runs and give the Kats the win.
It made a winner of Mikolajchak, who allowed a pair of runs on a two-run single with two outs to Joey Weimer, in what was the Bearkat closer’s second appearance of the day. The win also came on the heels of another strong performance from Seth Ballew who took a no decision after 6.1 innings of work that saw him allow just two hits and strike out six Bearcats.
AJ Kullman took the loss for Cincinnati, allowing the winning runs in the ninth after David Orndorff had a strong start with 6.2 innings on the hill and just one run allowed.
Both pitchers were on their game early on, putting up dueling zeros through the first five frames. Neither pitcher allowed his opponent a hit until Andrew Fregia broke up a stretch of 11 batters in a row retired by Orndorff to open the game with an infield single with two outs in the fourth.
Ballew was just as good, striking out six in the first three frames and not allowing a Cincinnati hit until a single from Rodriguez with one out in the Bearcat half of the sixth. He would not allow another until a one-out double by Cole Murphy in the seventh.
The Kats had a golden opportunity to strike first blood in the bottom of the fifth when Hearn led off with a ringing triple off the left-field wall, but he was thrown out at home trying to score on a grounder one batter later and then Orndorff was able to coax a double-play ball off the bat of Cryer to quickly end the threat.
Dakota Mills entered in relief in the seventh and promptly got two strikeouts to keep the go-ahead run on base for Cincinnati, and the Sam Houston offense rewarded him with a run on the board in the bottom half of the inning. A two-out single by Harp kept the inning alive and then a walk to Cryer pushed him into scoring position. Jaxxon Grisham then lined a 1-1 pitch into right field off of Orndorff, plating Harp and giving the Kats a 1-0 advantage.
He would not allow a hit in the eighth before handing the ball off to Mikolajchak for the ninth. A leadoff single by AJ Bumpass was followed by consecutive outs, but a sawed-off single by Murphy against a shifted infield kept the game alive. The runners would move up on a passed ball and Weimer would take advantage, putting a 3-2 pitch in front of Harp in left field to score a pair and put the Bearcats in front for the first time, 2-1.
Kullman would come back out for the ninth for the Bearcats and got some defensive help on a great play at shortstop to rob Fregia of a leadoff single. But Hearn would follow with one of his own before Harp beat out a double into the shallow gap in right-center field to put two runners in scoring position with just one out. Cincinnati would elect to load the bases by walking Ochoa, but to no avail as Haefner would send the Kats home winners with his walk-off heroics.
QUOTABLES Coach Deggs on today’s double header…
“Anytime you play a double header anything can happen. One thing you can do to control that is with really good pitching and we got two really good starts from Riley Gossett and Seth Ballew. We had some timely hits and I thought that we had a lot of good two out, two-strike hit, the back breakers. We did a really good job at staying and competing no matter how many outs and how many strikes. Nick Mickolajchak had a really good ninth inning. I really like how we responded after that with Harp and Hearn to get on and Ben Haefner did a great job and he really looked like a fifth-year guy. This is a tenacious group and they love to play and stay off the scoreboard. We had a lot of fun and hats off to Cincinnati, they are very well coached and both of their guys threw the ball very well.”
Coach Deggs on mental aspect of double header…
“That is what you try to do as a coaching staff is try and make sure that your guys are ready for anything and any situation. This is something that we embrace, we embrace being uncomfortable. We just love to play then you love to play two and if they let us play three then we would if they let us. We just had to take one inning at a time and the way to go at it today is that you better be able to pitch.”
Ben Haefner on the walk off hit…
“Well he was sinking it out there and I noticed that from the guys before me. So, I knew he would try to keep the bat away from me, trying to keep me away from driving it. I was looking for something over the plate for I could put it in play. Worst-case scenario, I just wanted to put a fly out there and send in the tying run. I didn’t want to let the guys down who batted before me and I cashed it in.”