ABILENE – Sam Houston State and Abilene Christian were delayed nearly an hour with lightning in the area. Once the all clear was given, the real storm began.
Trailing by five runs entering the sixth, play resumed as Sam Houston outscored the Wildcats by 12 runs in the final four frames including an eight-run sixth to capture a 19-12 victory late Saturday night.
The victory clinched Sam Houston’s third-straight Southland Conference series sweep and continued the best start to league play in program history. The game wrapped up roughly nine hours after the two teams began play in doubleheader action, with Sam Houston (20-8, 9-0 SLC) pounding the Wildcats (9-16, 1-11 SLC), 14-3 in the opener.
Hunter Hearn delivered a pair of triples, including a three-run three-bagger to tie the game in the sixth. One hitter later, Andrew Fregia lined the go-ahead single and Sam Houston, which trailed 11-6 with four innings to play, never looked back.
Dominic Robinson (1-0) picked up his first victory, tossing the final 4 2-3 innings, scattering six hits while allowing two runs. The freshman fanned seven of 19 hitters without allowing a walk.
On the three-game series, the first-place Bearkats scored 46 runs, hitting .390 as a team including a .497 on base percentage. Sam Houston swiped 20 bases in 22 tries on the weekend including seven in the finale.
Sam Houston has won 13-straight Southland Conference games, dating to a season ago. The Kats return to non-conference on Tuesday with a 6:30 p.m. tilt at Texas. The game will be broadcast on the Longhorn Network.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sam Houston fell behind for the first time in the series as the Wildcats jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first. The Bearkats battled back two innings later using three singles including an RBI base knock from Bryce Johnson to get on the board. With the double-steal on, Taylor Beene swiped third and scored on an error.
Johnson scored the third run of the frame on a wild pitch. After Mac Odom walked, Clayton Harp ripped a 2-1 pitch off the scoreboard in right center for his second home run of the season, this time a two-run shot, providing Sam Houston a 5-2 lead.
The Kats entered the weekend having allowed just one four-plus run inning but found themselves on the wrong end of back-to-back four-run frames. The Wildcats sent all nine hitters to the plate in the third and chased starter Hayden Wesneski with a three-run homer from Russell Crippin to take a 6-5 lead.
Johnson tied the game up for Sam Houston in the fourth, shooting a single into center to score Lance Miles, who led off with a walk. Abilene Christian answered in a big way, however, posting another four-spot in the fourth including plating a pair on wild pitches for the 10-6 lead.
The Sam Houston deficit was 11-6 when lightning halted play for 51 minutes before the sixth inning could begin. When the squads returned, everything changed.
Three straight hitters drew full-count walks to lead off the sixth. With one down, a wild pitch scored Miles. After Harp drew the free pass, Beene headed home on a passed ball, trimming the deficit to 11-8. The Wildcats turned to the bullpen, only to see Hearn drive a three-run triple into right field, scoring Blake Chisolm, Harp and Johnson, tying the game at 11-11.
Fregia put Sam Houston ahead, shooting a single into right field on a 1-2 count. After swiping second, Rojas followed with an RBI single, pushing the Kats lead to 13-11. The hit parade continued as Miles singled into right, stole second and scored on a Beene liner up the middle.
Seeking further insurance in the eighth, still leading 14-11, Rojas belted a leadoff home run into the bullpen in right field, setting the tone as the first of four runs to score. Beene and Johnson notched consecutive one-out singles and McKnight kept the inning alive, beating the throw on a fielder’s choice.
Then, Harp took a 0-2 pitch for an RBI single to left and stole second one hitter later. Patience paid off for Chisolm, who worked a seven-pitch walk. Hearn capitalized, sending a two-run single into left, giving Sam Houston an 18-11 lead. A Miles ninth-inning single gave the Kats their 19th run.
Head coach Matt Deggs on the come-from-behind win…
“They’re never out of the fight. I have been with these kids two to three years and I promise you there is no quit in them. They embrace situations like that. They love being uncomfortable. That was our kind of ballgame. We had a little adversity and a chance to respond and we did. That’s pretty much the definition of intensity for us… wave after wave, we just never stop. These kids embody that.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the importance of the 9-0 start in Southland play…
“I have been fortunate enough to coach in the Big 12 and the SEC. Top-to-bottom, there are leagues with more talent but the Southland Conference is a dogfight. If you’re not ready to play, you will get beat in this league. To sit 9-0 is a testament to these kids and how hard they play. It’s a testament to these coaches and what we’re doing. This was a big sweep.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on the outing from Dominic Robinson…
“We had a hero emerge out of the bullpen. We were rolling through guys one after another. Colin Cameron did a good job and there were a couple others but we really brought Dom in to match him up. The first pitch he threw was a double and he settled in and found his groove. He probably hasn’t gotten the innings he deserves. He has kind of had to wait in line. He has been working while he waits. I know (Louisiana) Coach (Tony) Robichaux said it this week but that’s something I learned from him. His number was called in a huge spot and I couldn’t be more proud of that kid.”