LAKE CHARLES, La. – The Sam Houston State Bearkats put together a trio of three-run innings and secured another series win in Southland Conference play with a 9-4 win over McNeese on Saturday afternoon at Joe Miller Ballpark.
Andrew Fregia drove in three runs on a pair of hits and Seth Ballew fought to keep the Bearakats (30-13, 17-3 SLC) in front through 5.0 innings for his fifth victory of the season. The Kats held a commanding 6-0 lead after the top of the fourth, but after McNeese (20-23, 14-9 SLC) cut it down to 6-4 in the fifth, it took another three-run inning in the ninth to finally put them away.
Sam Houston maintained that lead into the ninth thanks in large part to freshman Landon Ausley who retired each of the first eight hitters he faced after entering in the sixth inning and finished with three strikeouts in 2.2 innings of work. Brad Demco then got a key strikeout to end the eighth and Dakota Mills came on to get the final three outs in the ninth.
Jordan Cannon and Chase Cryer added two hits apiece with Cryer picking up an RBI, while Riley McKnight and Jack Rogers combined for three RBI in the ninth. Clayton Harp continued his big series, reaching base in four of his five plate appearances with a single and an RBI to his credit.
For McNeese, starter Bryan King fell to 3-4 despite punching out seven hitters in just 3.1 innings. But the Kats also took advantage of three walks and collected six hits off of him before chasing him from the mound in the fourth.
The Kats will go for the sweep of the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon at Joe Miller Ballpark. First pitch is set for 1:00 p.m. and will be aired on Eleven Sports Network and the Southland Digital Network. Right-hander Hayden Wesneski is scheduled to get the start against Cowboy righty Tyler Wesley.
After a quick first inning the Kats went right to work in the second, opening it up with consecutive singles by Cannon and Harp. Chase Cryer then pushed the Kats out in front with a single back up the middle to score Cannon. King would follow with consecutive strikeouts to nearly end the inning, but then issued a walk to Riley McKnight that loaded the bases and extended the inning. Fregia made him pay for that free pass, roping a double into left-field corner that scored a pair to give Sam Houston a 3-0 lead after two frames.
Sam Houston added to its lead two innings later, forcing King from the game in the process. Neither of the first two Kats of the inning hit safely, but each found their way on base, setting up Fregia again who singled into center field to score Jack Rogers and make it a 4-0 game. That would be the only hit of the inning for Sam, but they were not done scoring, bringing home another run on a wild pitch before making it 6-0 when Clayton Harp was hit with the bases.
After that long inning the Cowboys got their bats going with four of the first five hitters reaching safely against Ballew. Dustin Duhon delivered the big blow with a two-run double that made it 6-2. Mitchell Rogers followed that double up two batters later with an RBI double of his own to make it 6-3 before Ballew was able to work out of the inning.
McNeese got another run back in the fifth on a solo homer from Joe Provenzano, but Sam Houston then turned to Ausley out of the bullpen and the freshman retired eight hitters he faced before Brad Demco got the final out of the eighth. Sam Houston then went back to work in the ninth and put the game away. The Kats got each of the first three hitters of the inning on base, including an RBI single from Rogers that made it 7-4. McKnight then picked up two RBI on a perfectly-executed squeeze bunt that saw him beat it out for a single and score not only Darien Simms from third, but pinch runner Eric Bohnert from second to give the Kats a commanding 9-4 advantage.
Coach Matt Deggs on the win over McNeese …
“I really liked the way we came out and got after their starter early. Their lefty, King, has a good arm and has two or three different pitches and I thought we did a good job of scoring early and then were able to tack on. Seth (Ballew) ran into a little bit of trouble there in the fourth and I’m really proud of the way he gutted it up and came back out for the fifth.”
Deggs on Landon Ausley’s performance and what it meant in the game …
We were able to maintain that lead, which was big, and allowed us to get the game to Landon (Ausley). And you can see how promising that is and what a bright future that kid has. He really stole the momentum from them and got it back into our dugout, and then we were able to tack on late.
Deggs on Ballew’s day …
“Sometimes when you jump out like that you take your foot off the gas just a touch. I don’t know if that is what happened or not, but he was challenging the strike zone and they were fortunate to get some good swings on it. The main thing is that we bent, but didn’t break. He continued to compete and challenge the strike zone and we were able to get him through five and get him the W.”