HUNTSVILLE – In a battle of the two top teams in the Southland Conference, the Sam Houston State Bearkats struck first with a 5-3 win over Southeastern Louisiana on Friday night at Don Sanders Stadium.
The Bearkats (33-13, 19-3 SLC) continued to tighten their grip on the SLC standings, guaranteeing a hold on first place at the end of the weekend in what was head coach Matt Deggs’ 150th victory at Sam Houston.
Jordan Cannon delivered a key two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning to snap a 2-2 tie and Clayton Harp drove in an insurance run with a single in the eighth before Dakota Mills used just nine pitches for a perfect ninth for his 13th save of the season.
It was the seventh consecutive victory for the Bearkats with Gabriel Sequeira picking up his fourth victory of the season with 2.0 innings of scoreless relief. He struck out four hitters in that span after coming in for Nick Mikolajchak after the starter had struck out five in 5.0 innings, surrendering a pair of runs on four hits.
Lion (30-18, 17-8 SLC) starter Josh Green fell to 6-4 on the season with the loss despite striking out six in 5.2 innings. He was without a walk before Southeastern elected to intentionally walk Harp to load the bases and get to Cannon in the sixth, setting the stage for his go-ahead double.
Kyle Schimpf had a big game for Southeastern, hitting safely in his first three at-bats, including a solo homer to the game at 1-1 in the top of the second. Daniel Wasinger also added a solo homer in the eighth, cutting the lead to 4-3 at the time.
The Kats jumped out to an early lead just three batters into the game. Andrew Fregia opened things up with a single and then quickly swiped second base, eventually scoring on a ground ball by Hunter Hearn two batters later.
Schimpf’s homer tied it back up in the second and two innings later the Lions jumped out in front with another run. A two-out single by Schimpf kept the inning alive and after a walk to Wasinger, Michael Taylor dropped a single into center field to give Southeastern a 2-1 advantage before Mikolajchak punched out Brennan Breaud on strikes to end the frame.
The lead was short-lived, however, as the Kats answered back in the bottom half of the inning. Consecutive singles by Hearn and Blake Chisolm quickly put runners on the corners for Chase Cryer, who picked up the game-tying RBI with a sacrifice fly to deep right field.
Sam Houston managed to leave three Lion base runners on base over the next two innings before re-taking the lead in the sixth. A single by Jack Rogers and a hit batter got a pair of runners on base, and a grounder by Cryer to the right side freed up first base with two outs. Southeastern then elected to walk Harp to load the bases, but Cannon made them pay one batter later by lining a two-run double off the glove of third baseman Taylor Schwaner that put the Kats back up for good at 4-2.
The Kats will try to clinch the series against the Lions on Saturday with first pitch set for 3:00 p.m. at The Don. Left-hander Seth Ballew is slated to get the ball opposite Southeastern righty Carlisle Koestler.
Coach Matt Deggs on Friday’s win …
“That was a great Friday night fight there by two good teams. Those are teams that play hard and play the right way. It was really an enjoyable game to get to play in, coach in and really to watch. I thought we did a good job on the bump, which set a great tone for us. Every guy that came out of the bullpen filled it up and we defended the ball really well tonight. Offensively it was kind of a scrap-it-out night. Whatever you could take, you had to take. We were fortunate to score in the first and then were able to tack on late. It was a total team contribution.”
Deggs on going up against Southeastern …
"They are a very good ball club who is very disciplined. They have a definitive approach to what they are trying to do, not only offensively but defensively and on the bump. They are rock solid and very well coached. This is far from over. We’ll have to get a good night’s rest and be ready to play tomorrow."
Deggs on the mentality of the Kats in a battle of the two top teams in the SLC …
"These kids have been this way for three years now. They thrive on the big stage. They thrive when everything is on the line, and that is a great quality. They just have fun playing and don’t put too much pressure on themselves. They just like to play and compete, and play very well together."