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Courtesy: David Barfield
Southland Conference Showdown
Courtesy: Brandon K. Scott/Huntsville Item
Release: 05/11/2012
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Southeastern Louisiana visits Don Sanders Stadium this weekend in a series that will serve as a showdown for the 2012 Southland Conference regular season baseball championship.

For the Bearkats (20-7 SLC), a strong finish to the season results in the first conference title since 1989, before most of the current Bearkat players were even born.

Standing in the way of this team making school history are the second-place Lions (17-10 SLC), who come to Don Sanders Stadium this weekend having won four of their last five conference games.

Couple that with the Bearkats losing three out of their last six conference games, and Southeastern Louisiana is just three games, or a weekend series sweep away from tying for the lead in the conference standings.

"Last time we had a series like this was probably Texas State or Northwestern State," first baseman Ryan O'Hearn said following practice Thursday. "We don't prepare more so than any other series, but it's exciting for us because we know we can put them away and clinch the conference title. So that's important for us because we know they are trying to catch us."

Younger players on Sam Houston's roster like O'Hearn, freshman shortstop Corey Toups and others who have made significant contributions to the run this season want to win the championship partly for the older players, as well as first-year skipper David Pierce.

As freshmen, they realize time is on their side to win more championships in the future, but learning from the older players shows them nothing is guaranteed. Seniors Justin Jackson and Jordan Bunch are the only two players  left from the Bearkat team that won the Southland Conference Tournament championship in 2009 (John Hale was a redshirt transfer from Rice).

"At our team meeting, the older guys said a little speech. Some of them won conference championships and they took it for granted and it hasn't happened again," Toups said. "So they really want it to happen this year. It's their last year to do so.

"Wouldn't it be cool to win one? It's everybody's goal to win a conference championship and go on further to the College World Series. Right now we just want to play ball as hard as we can and do it for the older guys."

Southeastern isn't one of the stronger hitting teams in the league, but its defense is toward the top, along with a team ERA of 3.33, the second lowest in the league. The Lions do, however, have the Southland's hitting leader in Brock Hebert, who boasts a .400 batting average which includes 19 doubles, two triples and two home runs.

The Kats hit well as a team, with Kevin Miller and Jake Arrington leading the way while Anthony Azar is still sidelined due to injury.

Sam Houston leads the conference with a .294 team batting average, while standing third in team ERA (3.46).

A series win against the Lions could clinch the regular season title for the Kats, while a series loss leaves it all up for grabs between Sam Houston, Southeastern and UT-Arlington.

The series begins today at 6:30 p.m., with Saturday's game following at 4 p.m. and the finale on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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