HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats exploded for nine early runs and held on for a 9-6 win over Houston Baptist on Sunday afternoon at Don Sanders Stadium, clinching both the series from the Huskies and a share of the 2018 Southland Conference championship.
The Kats (35-17, 21-6 SLC) can win the SLC title outright and secure the No. 1 overall seed in the Southland Conference Tournament with one win next weekend in its series at UIW.
Sam Houston carried the momentum over from its dramatic win on Saturday into Sunday, plating three runs in the first inning and blowing it open with five runs in the fifth. Andrew Fregia finished with three hits and reached five times in the game, while Eric Bohnert also had three hits and three RBI.
Meanwhile, Hayden Wesneski turned in a strong start to move to 5-3 on the year. The sophomore right-hander went 7.1 innings, striking out six and walking a pair while surrendering three runs on six hits.
The Huskies (23-28, 15-12 SLC) trailed 9-0 going into the sixth, but made things interesting six runs in their final three at-bats, including three in the ninth. Brady Batten took the loss for HBU after giving up six runs on eight hits in just 4.0 innings.
The Kats will wrap up the non-conference portion of their 2018 schedule on Tuesday when they travel to College Station to take on Texas A&M. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. from Blue Bell Park and will be aired on SEC Network+. Fans unable to make it to College Station are encouraged to join Bearkat Athletics at City Hall Café on Tuesday for an official watch party.
It took little time for the Kats to jump all over Batten as they sent seven hitters to the plate and scored three times in the opening inning. A one-out walk to Mac Odom got it all going before Fregia kicked off his big day with an RBI triple into the right-field corner. Harp followed that up with a triple of his own off the left-field wall and one batter later Haefner picked up an RBI to make it 3-0 with a single into right.
An RBI single from Bohnert in the third scored Fregia and made it a 4-0 game, but then came the fifth when the Kats broke the game open. Again it was Fregia getting it started with a leadoff single off of Batten that was followed by a walk to Harp. Haefner then doubled into the right-field corner to score a run and Bohnert followed it up with a two-run single up the middle that made it a 7-0 Bearkat advantage. A single by Gavin Johnson and an HBU error compounded the inning, scoring another run before Trey Ochoa capped the scoring with an RBI groundout.
Wesneski kept the Huskies off the board until the Huskies got two across in the seventh and another on a leadoff homer by Spencer Halloran in the eighth. Riley Gossett came on to punch out each of the two hitters he faced to close out the eighth before Riley Cooper entered to toss the ninth. HBU got a man on before Cooper retired the next two, but Tyler Depreta-Johnson and Jonathan Ducoff kept the inning going with a pair of singles. Halloran then slammed a tirple off the center field wall, scoring two and cutting the lead to 9-6. But Cooper got Tanner Luna swinging for the game’s final out.
Head coach Matt Deggs opening statement …
“It was a great win, obviously for the program and for these boys. To capture a share of the championship, at least - which is always our first goal, to win the league – and a chance to win it outright next weekend is huge. I thought Hayden Wesneski went out and set an incredible tone for us. He pounded the zone and got us into the eighth inning. He’s really held down Sundays and made it nice for us.”
“HBU is very competitive and very scrappy. They just wouldn’t go away. We had chances to put it away a couple of times and just couldn’t punch it across. I thought the offense functioned really well together. We made it a goal today to play really good defense, so we started a little different lineup, a bit more athletic, and were able to really defend it. I’m just proud of the guys. We’ve been through a lot of adversity. A lot of ups, a lot of downs and they have stayed the course.”
Deggs on carrying over the momentum from Saturday's win into Sunday ...
“Any time you wind up getting a scare like last night, especially when you have been scuffling, and you find a way to eek it out, it has a way of putting a lot of momentum on your side and a bunch of confidence. And confidence is so fickle in this game. If you could bottle up confidence and sell it, you’d be a billionaire. So, it threw a lot of confidence and momentum back our way. That had a lot to do with our early start and allowed Hayden to settle in. Our defense was tremendous and our bats were very competitive and tenacious.”
Deggs on the chance to clinch an outright title next weekend ...
“The first part of our vision is to win the league. We’ve been fortunate enough to do it, but a share of the title is not what we’ve set out for. We want to own it outright. But that doesn’t take away anything that these kids have done. We still have another full week to play with another really good Texas A&M team on the road on Tuesday.”