DeLAND, Fla. – The Sam Houston State Bearkats kicked off the 2019 season with a bang on Friday, taking down Manhattan, 12-7, at Melching Field at Conrad Park in the opening game of the Rycass Classic.
The Kats (1-0) crushed three home runs – two from Hunter Hearn in his first career multi-homer game – and a stellar relief performance from Cody Wolf, setting down 19 of the 20 hitters he faced to earn his first win as a Bearkat.
Sam Houston staked itself to a 9-2 lead on the strength of its three dingers, including a grand slam from freshman Colton Cowser in a five-run fourth that seemed to be an early knockout blow before the Jaspers (0-1) answered with a five-spot of their own in the bottom half of the inning.
Hearn would finish with four RBI on his two home runs, while Cowser finished with a pair of extra-base hits of his own after adding a double later in the game. Jack Rogers also turned in a big game, scoring three times and driving in a pair of runs in five trips to the plate.
Wolf allowed just one hit in his 5.1 innings of relief, entering in the fourth and needing less than 55 pitches to go the rest of the way. He retired the first 10 hitters he faced and struck out four on the day, coming in for starter Seth Ballew who struck out three hitters in his first two frames before allowing seven runs on eight hits – seven singles – in the next two frames.
Ryan Takacs took the loss for the Jaspers, allowing seven runs on five hits in just 3.2 innings. In all the Kats struck out just twice in the game, and had no punchouts until the eighth inning.
The Bearkats will turn around and take on the tournament, host, Stetson, on Saturday evening at Melching Field. First pitch is set for 6:00 p.m. CT and can be viewed online on HatterVision.
Sam Houston quickly had a threat going with a leadoff single by Jack Rogers and a walk to Riley McKnight, but a stroke of bad luck followed as Colton Cowser lined out hard into a double play before Takacs picked McKnight off of first to end the frame.
After Hunter Hearn had gotten the Kats on the board with a leadoff home run in the top of the second, he added to it with another in the third. A walk to Rogers and an infield single by McKnight, both with one out, set the table for Hearn who mashed the first pitch he saw out to left field to up the SHSU lead to 4-0.
Ballew was on cruise control in the first two frames, punching out three of the six hitters he faced in two scoreless innings. But things got testy in the third when a leadoff single and a Bearkat error quickly put runners on the corners with nobody away. Ballew responded by getting the next hitter, but then surrendered a pair of runs on RBI singles by Richie Barella and Shawn Blake to push across the first two Jasper runs of the game. The lefty then put an end to the rally, getting Matt Padre to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Sam Houston broke it open in the fourth with another big swing, this time from Cowser. The Kats got their first run of the inning on an RBI single by Rogers that scored Jordan Cannon, who had opened the inning with a walk. Two batters later the Kats had loaded the bases and it was Cowser who unloaded them, blasting a grand slam into the right-field parking lot to surge the Kats ahead 9-2.
Manhattan answered right back, though, pecking away at the lead with an inning that included five hits – four of which were singles – to put up a five-spot of their own. A single and walk to open the inning was followed by a double by Alex Cerda to plate the first Jasper run. Then, after a Ballew strikeout, the Jaspers delivered three straight RBI singles before the second SHSU error of the game tacked on another to bring Manhattan back to within a pair at 9-7.
Sam Houston added one more in the sixth when Reese Johnson scored on a fly ball from Jack Rogers after tripling to open up the inning. Two innings later they closed it out with two more, scoring on a double steal and the third Manhattan error of the game