HUNTSVILLE – Sam Houston State used bench play to manufacture runs, showcased the leather and rode another strong start from Hayden Wesneski to a Southland Conference series-opening sweep against Lamar.
The Bearkats defeated the Cardinals, 3-1, with all three RBIs coming off the bench. After clinching the squad’s 14th-straight home league series win on Saturday, the Kats (11-5, 3-0 SLC) needed just three hits to capture the program’s second overall sweep of the season.
Wesneski (4-0) tossed a season-high eight innings, permitting just four hits and one run while fanning one and walking another. The freshman right-hander set down Lamar (8-8, 0-3 SLC) in order in five of those innings.
For the third straight game, and second save opportunity, closer Nick Mikolajchak slammed the door, permitting a leadoff walk before inducing a pair of pop outs and a series-clinching strikeout. The save was the fourth of his freshman campaign.
Lance Miles provided two hits for the Kats, while Clayton Harp captured the first Sam Houston hit of the game – an RBI single in the fifth. Coming on to pinch hit, Robie Rojas provided the go-ahead bases-loaded, full-count walk in the sixth and Cross Austin added a pinch-hit insurance sac-fly in the eighth for his first-career RBI.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Lamar led off the scoring, taking a 1-0 lead in the second. Reid Russell and Robin Adames sent singles to the left side to begin the frame and Mike Leal used a sacrifice fly to right field for his seventh RBI of the season, providing the Cardinals their first lead of the series.
Sam Houston was unable to produce its first hit until the fifth inning but made it count. Blake Chisolm battled, working a seven-pitch leadoff walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Hunter Southerland walked but was out on a fielder’s choice as Taylor Beene reached first and Chisolm took third.
Harp came on to pinch hit, providing the first hit, looping a single into shallow left, plating Chisolm to knot the game at 1-1, as the Kats continued to cash in with two outs in the series.
The Bearkats put the leadoff runner aboard for a third straight inning as Jaxxon Grisham drew the walk in the sixth. Miles followed, placing a bunt just inside the first base line, reaching on the play and moving Grisham to second. Mike Williams came on to pinch hit, providing the at-bat of the afternoon, fouling off five pitches before drawing a 10-pitch walk to load the bases.
Sam Houston made Lamar starter Carson Lance pay, sending pinch hitter Rojas to the dish, who drew a full-count walk to give the Bearkats a 2-1 lead and chance the right-hander from the game, having allowed just two hits.
Seeking insurance in the eighth, Miles led off with a first-pitch double to right field, advancing to third on an Andrew Fregia grounder to the right side. Then, head coach Matt Deggs called on pinch-hitter Austin, who drove a slider into deep left, recording his first-career RBI for a 3-1 advantage.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Following two days of championship-level defensive play, the Bearkats followed suit in the finale. After Chad Fleischman drew an eight-pitch one-out walk in the eighth, pinch hitter Cutter McDowell drove a ball to the warning track in center, sending Fleischman racing towards home.
Bryce Johnson took the ball on one hop, firing it in to Beene at shortstop, who turned and gunned down the runner at the plate as Rojas applied the tag with ease.
Sam Houston returns to non-conference action on Tuesday, visiting Rice for a 6:30 p.m. tilt. The game will be one of only three road games between February and March for the Kats, who return home Friday to open an eight-game homestand against A&M-Corpus Christi.
Head coach Matt Deggs on the victory against Lamar…
“We got a heck of a start from a freshman. Hayden Wesneski went out there and set a great tone for us. He went eight against a really good hitting ballclub. Offense was really hard to come by today. We did a really good job grinding at the plate. Our defense was the story again. We made one of the best plays I’ve seen since I’ve been here. The relay off the center field wall won it for us.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the series sweep…
“We’ve got everybody back and we’re a year older and wiser. You always want to get off to a fast start. To get after a quality opponent like Lamar is gigantic for us. I like the way we’re playing right now. We’re really pitching, defending it really well and we’re really tough to put away. Once again, we found a way to get it done.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on finding a way to win in different ways…
“They find an excuse to win. They stay off results. They don’t even know how many hits we had. That’s not their thing. They just want to win. That’s the only stat that matters. They got it done.”
Freshman outfielder Mike Williams on his 10-pitch walk…
“Coach Deggs called on me and I was just looking to get my pitch and drive it to the opposite field and get those guys in. As the at bat materialized, it became a battle. I eventually won it with a walk and set up Robie to come behind me and get him in.”
Freshman pinch-hitter Cross Austin on his first-career RBI and series sweep…
“I was ready when Coach Deggs called my name. When I got up there, I was thinking fastball and I got in a 2-2 count. I was looking for whatever was close and I got a hanging breaking ball. It’s an amazing feeling (to sweep). I have so much confidence with this team.”