The 2012 baseball team hoisted the Southland Conference regular-season championship trophy for the first time in 23 years. Sam Houston earned the title by a margin of four games.
The 24 Southland Conference victories tied the league record for most conference wins in a season. For the first time in their 12 trips to the Southland post-season tournament, the Kats were the No. 1 seed.
Then Sam Houston received its first at-large selection to the NCAA tournament as a Southland Conference member. The Kats punched their tickets to the NCAA Baseball Championships in 1996, 2007, 2008 and 2009 as winners of the Southland tournament. SHSU's spot in the 2012 NCAA Houston Regional marked the program's seventh NCAA Division I tournament appearance overall.
Last weekend in Houston, the Bearkats equaled their best NCAA Regional performance ever. After falling in the first round, the baseball team battled back to reach the regional finals against Arkansas. Along the way they upset No. 1 regional seed Rice.
"We had some great seniors that played for us all year and really stepped up in the tournament. With John Hale and Jake Arrington as everyday players and Justin Jackson and Michael Oros as starters on the mound, it's been a pleasure to work with them. I'm thankful for that," Kats head coach David Pierce said following Sam Houston's 5-1 loss to Arkansas, which ended the season, in the championship round of the Houston Regional on Sunday night.
Arrington and Hale along with junior Jessie Plumlee and freshman Colt Atwood were voted to the 2012 Houston Regional all-tournament team.
Replacing quality seniors always is a difficult task but the Bearkats look to continue where they left off with a solid group of quality, young players.
Among the players that will be back hoping to produce the same kind of results, if not better, are true freshmen Colt Atwood, Ryan O'Hearn and Corey Toups, who all played in just about every game of Sam Houston's 40-win season.
Atwood was at the top of the lineup and was a difference-maker, especially in the Houston Regional where he collected five hits and four RBIs and was named to the all-regional team.
Even without Hale and Arrington there to make defensive plays, the Kats will still have plenty of experience back as sure-handed third baseman Kevin Miller and second baseman Jessie Plumlee, who had a team-high seven hits in four games at the Houston Regional to earn all-tournament honors, return for their senior seasons and sophomores Anthony Azar and Luke Plucheck look to make an even bigger dent offensively.
The kind of production that Oros and Jackson provided on the mound will be hard to replace, but with the number of arms that Pierce has, odds are that he'll find some strong pitchers to accompany ace Caleb Smith in the weekend rotation.
"Our program is in great hands right now. We start three freshmen in key positions at first, short and center field and two sophomores. I think we're going to get a little better on the mound as well. Hopefully, there will be guys that can step in and replace these guys that are leaving. I think everything is moving in the right direction for us."
While it will be difficult to pull of a repeat performance of 2012, with so many young players who made solid contributions and carried Sam Houston to the verge of playing in the super-regionals, the Bearkats are poised to be able to pick up where they left off next spring and summer.