ABILENE – Sam Houston State stole eight bases and pounded Abilene Christian early, taking the first of the three-game series, 13-3 on Friday night from Crutcher Scott Field.
The Bearkats (18-8, 7-0 Southland), who scored in each of the first five innings and in seven total frames, have won 12-straight league games dating to May 8, 2016, and extended their best conference start in history with a seventh-consecutive win.
Five different players registered stolen bases including Mac Odom, who swiped three including a straight-steal of home. The sophomore became the first player since Bryce Johnson (2015) to do so. Johnson, meanwhile, logged his 50th career stolen base – one shy of cracking the top-10 in team history.
Ten different Sam Houston hitters recorded hits including three each from Johnson and Clayton Harp. The top-four hitters in the order each finished with multi-hit games as Mac Odom added a pair in the two-hole and Hunter Hearn produced a pair in the four-spot.
Sam Houston starter Heath Donica (5-1) picked up his fourth-straight victory, holding ACU (9-14, 1-9 SLC) to a pair of runs while scattering five hits. The right-handed senior struck out four and walked one in seven innings.
The Kats return on Saturday to play a doubleheader against the Wildcats beginning at 2 p.m. The change was made following Friday’s opener due to inclement weather expected in the Abilene area on Sunday.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sam Houston scored two runs in the opening frame as Harp connected with an RBI double and Hunter Hearn followed with an RBI single to left.
The Bearkats tacked on another in the second, this time without a hit. With two down, Riley McKnight reached on an error and swiped second. Bryce Johnson followed, reaching on the hit by pitch. With the double steal on, McKnight swiped third and came around to score as the throw slipped into left field.
Harp led off the third with his second hit, a single to left, stole second and advanced to third on another Wildcats miscue. Two hitters later, Andrew Fregia drove a ball to deep center for the sacrifice fly and a 4-0 Sam Houston advantage.
Abilene Christian responded with a run of its own in the third but the Bearkats responded in a big way in the fourth. Sam Houston pounded out three-straight RBI knocks including a McKnight single, Johnson double and Odom single for a 7-1 lead.
After Odom swiped second, the sophomore took third on a Hearn single. With a strong jump at third, Odom broke for home, scoring as the pitch was high. It marked the first straight steal of home since Johnson accomplished the feat at ULM on Feb. 28, 2015.
The Wildcats grabbed one in the fourth but the Kats answered again in the fifth. Lance Miles led off the inning with a single and provided the Bearkats eighth stolen base of the game before taking third as Taylor Beene set down the bunt single. Then, McKnight beat the throw to first on a fielder’s choice, pushing the lead to 9-2.
Sam Houston made something out of nothing in the seventh. After a pair of quick fly outs, McKnight drew a five-pitch walk and took second as Johnson sent a second-pitch single into right. Odom was hit by the pitch to load the bases as the Wildcats headed to the bullpen.
Harp fell behind in the count 1-2 but lined a single into right field, scoring Johnson and McKnight to extend the lead to 11-2 on his third hit of the game. The sophomore extended his reached-base streak to 14 straight games in the victory.
Head coach Matt Deggs on the performance from Heath Donica…
“It all starts with the guy on the bump and ‘Heater’ Donica is pretty special. It was great to get him back out there. He had about 13 or 14 days off and I thought he looked really good tonight. He gave us seven strong and pounded the zone with a good sinker. He had his slider going.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the defense, run game and bats…
“The defense was tremendous tonight. It was good to see us getting back to playing our game. We were able to run and spin the game a little bit. Our short game came into play. We did a great job with the wind blowing in our face. We were presented opportunities to run and use our speed tonight. I thought we did a great job with that, stealing eight of nine bases.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on jumping out to the early lead…
“That’s house money. Any time you can get some house money in the first it takes a load off a little bit. We can start to run the offense and use all of our tools. I thought we played a little more athletic of a lineup tonight. We shook the batting order a little bit and I liked how the guys responded.”