HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats put up four runs in the fourth inning and Hayden Wesneski logged seven strong innings as the Kats picked up a 7-3 win over Central Arkansas on Sunday afternoon at Don Sanders Stadium, clinching the series win against the Bears.
It is the sixth consecutive series win to open up Southland Conference play for Sam Houston (28-13, 15-3 SLC), keeping them unblemished in league series at The Don under head coach Matt Deggs. It also keeps the Kats on top of the SLC standings with a month left to play in the regular season.
Wesneski picked up his third victory of the season, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning before the Bears finally scratched the scoreboard on him in that frame. In all he would strike out four and allow three runs in his stint before the duo of Brad Demco and Dakota Mills tossed the final two innings.
Mills struck out each of the first three hitters he faced, working out of an eighth-inning jam, to pick up his 10th save of the season. In all, SHSU pitchers allowed just seven hits to the Bears (23-16, 11-7 SLC) in the final 17 innings of the series.
Offensively, five Kats finished with a pair of hits, lead by Hunter Hearn who connected on his seventh homer of the year in a 2-for-3 day that included a pair of RBI. Andrew Fregia added a pair of hits and an RBI, as did Clayton Harp. Trey Ochoa and Eric Bohnert also had multi-hit games as part of a 12-hit day for the Kats.
They made it tough on UCA starter Cody Davenport, who allowed 11 of those hits and six runs in just 4.0 innings to fall to 3-3 on the season. Will Brand gave the Bears a chance to come back, inheriting a 6-0 deficit and tossing three scoreless innings of relief before Sam got an unearned run in the eighth.
Sam Houston will go on the road for the seventh Southland three-game series to face off against McNeese with the first game on Friday at 6:00 p.m.
The Bearkats came out aggressive against Davenport, staking itself to an early 1-0 lead on a sacrifice fly from Hearn. That scored Fregia from third after he led off the inning with a single and eventually moved to third on the first of two UCA errors for the game. The Kats had a chance to add on with runners on second and third, but Davenport was able to get Chase Cryer on strikes before Ben Haefner flew out to center field.
After three up and three down for Central Arkansas in the top of the third, Hearn took a 2-0 pitch and blasted it off the scoreboard for his seventh homerun of the season, making it a 2-0 Bearkat lead and tying with Blake Chisolm and Fregia for the team lead.
Through four innings, Wesneski had not allowed a hit and had two strikeouts, bridging things into a big four-run fifth. The Kats used five hits to score four runs with Jordan Cannon leading off with a single to left field. An Ochoa single put runners on the corners before Fregia delivered his second hit of the game to score Cannon. The Kats then pushed home a hustle run with as Chisolm and Fregia beat out both ends of a potential double play and Ochoa scampered all the way home from second, making it 4-0. Two batters later Harp singled to left field to bring home another run before Harp and Hearn executed a double steal with Hearn swiping home to make it a commanding 6-0 lead for the Kats.
The Bears got their first hit in the game with a single by Colby Potvin through the right side, just before Tyler Smith took a 1-2 pitch over the right-field wall for a two-run homer that got the Bears on the board.
A hit batter, wild pitch and single quickly put UCA in business, down 6-2, in the top of the eighth and prompted the Kats to go to the pen. Demco allowed a flared single by Coby Potvin into right field that cut the lead to 6-3, but proceeded to strike out Tyler Smith for the first out. Sam Houston then turned to Mills who promptly struck out both Keaton Presley and Colby LeBlanc to end what was the final threat of the game for UCA.
Coach Deggs opening statement …
“I thought we came out and set the tone offensively where we were able to get guys on base and get big hits. We were able to let (Hayden) Wesneski settle in and do his thing and he pitched very well, especially if you carry a no-hitter going into the sixth. I am proud of Wesneski for that start and proud of the guys for bouncing back after the first game. I really didn’t think we played that bad in the first game. They just got after couple of our arms but we grinded at the plate and put it all together the last two days.”
Coach Deggs on bouncing back from that first game …
“Since Wednesday against Houston we have been playing pretty good baseball and I really liked the attack we had against their guy on Friday. He is one of the better arms in the league and they just came after couple of our arms and put us behind the eight ball. I thought we finished that game strong to set up for a comeback win yesterday and helped us today. The name of the game is to win series and that is what we were able to do.”
Hayden Wesneski on his performance from the mound …
“I was able to locate the fastball in the beginning and that is the best way to start it before mixing in y second and third pitches later. Coach Deggs talked to us about bouncing back and he helped get our minds right before the game. But I knew the guys behind me were having fun by the way they were swinging it well, in the end we are playing a game we love.”