CORPUS CHRISTI – In almost a mirror image of its league opener a week ago, the No. 22 Sam Houston State Bearkats scored early and then again late to make a great pitching performance stand up in a 3-1 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the series opener on Friday night at Chapman Field.
The Bearkats (14-4, 4-0 SLC) ran their win streak to seven victories in a row behind starter Hayden Wesneski. The sophomore moved to 2-1 on the season with the win, allowing just three hits in 5.2 innings while walking four and striking out six before turning it over to the bullpen in the sixth. From there, Nick Mikolajchak struck out three in 2.1 bridge innings to Dakota Mills in the ninth.
It was the third straight converted save for Mills with the senior right-hander having struck out nine hitters with only one single allowed in 5.2 innings over that span.
The Kats had to work for their offense against Islander (12-6, 0-1 SLC) starter Dustin Lacaze and reliever Cole Carter, finishing with eight hits on the night. Lacaze took the loss to fall to 1-1 despite allowing just two runs in 7.0 innings with a walk and six punchouts.
Trey Ochoa was the only Bearkat with multiple hits, finishing the game 2-fo-3 with a triple. Andrew Fregia had a bunt single and an RBI, while Chase Cryer and Hunter Hearn each delivered an RBI double in the game’s final two frames.
The Bearkats will continue its series and go for the clincher on Saturday at Chapman Field. First pitch is set for 4:00 p.m. on The Island with Riley Gossett scheduled to get the start against Islander right-hander Aaron Hernandez.
Sam Houston staked Wesneski to an early lead, manufacturing a run in its first time to the plate against Lacaze. Singles by both Jaxxon Grisham and Clayton Harp got the game started and a sacrifice bunt by Ochoa quickly got the Kats in business. Fregia then got the game’s first run home with a sacrifice fly to center field to score Grisham.
A double play in the first inning and a pick off in the second helped Wesneski work around a couple of base runners in the first two frames, and he ran into some more trouble in the third. RJ Ruiz became the first Islander in scoring position with a one-out double and leadoff man Luke Marbach followed that by drawing a walk. But Wesneski picked up his second strikeout of the game, punching out Harrison Dinicola on three pitches before getting Jackson Owens to fly out to end the threat.
Wesneski struck out four more over the next two innings but found more trouble in the sixth after a single from Dinicola and a walk to Thomas Jeffries put a pair of runners on with two outs. Sam then turned to Nick Mikolajchak to face Nick Anderson and the hard-throwing reliever got the job done, quelling another threat by getting Anderson to ground out weakly to Fregia at shortstop.
Lacaze came back out for the seventh and promptly issued a five-pitch walk to Chisolm to give Sam Houston something to work with. Cryer then gave the Kats some breathing room, upping the lead to 2-0 by chopping an RBI double that scored pinch runner Darien Simms just inside the third-base bag and into the left-field corner.
Mikolajchak used just 12 pitches to go 1-2-3 through the Islander order in the seventh, punching out a pair, and the Kats added to the lead again in the eighth against Carter. Fregia found his way on base for the first time in the game with a one-out bunt single and then moved up to second base on a grounder by Ben Haefner. One batter later Hearn hammered a 1-2 pitch from Carter off the base of the left-center field fence for an RBI double.
Dinicola helped the Islanders finally get on the board in the eight, lining a one-out triple into the right field corner and then coming in to score on a sacrifice fly from Owens. Drake Osborn would follow with a two-out single to bring the potential tying run to the plate, but Mikolajchak tuned it up and struck him out swinging.
Coach Matt Deggs on the win …
“Really and truly it’s kind of a repeat from last Friday, scorewise and everything. We pitched it super efficiently, dominated routine plays all night and got big hits again. Their guy pitched extremely well, had a three-pitch mix and could locate his fastball. Then he was able to locate his second and third pitch, which made him really tough. You’ve got some conditions out here as well, but we battled and were able to stave off momentum with some really good pitching. Hayden gave us a great start, Miko was money coming out of the bullpen and then Dakota came in and slammed the door like he has been doing.”
Deggs on the series moving forward …
“We’ve got our hands full with this group. Corpus is really talented and playing extremely well together. They are a good ballclub.”
Deggs on playing in the conditions at Chapman Field …
“The elements are different than anything that we play in. We don’t play in a lot of wind and we play on a turf field. Here we are on a really hard, dirt field, with a big wind going out to right off the gulf and it can mess with your head a little bit. I thought we did a really good job of settling in and playing rock solid pack baseball at our tone and pace. We were able to score first and then hold on to it.”
Deggs on scoring late …
“Those were two really big at-bats late (Cryer and Hearn). We scored in the first inning last Friday too and then their guy settled in, so it was kind of the same song, second verse as last Friday. We were able to come up with a big at-bat by Chase when he was able to two-strike one down the line. Then Hunter came up and got a hanging breaking ball and hit it off the wall. Big hits are the name of the game and you have to keep coming and stay on the stuff that we control, which we are doing a really good job of right now.”