CORPUS CHRISTI Mark Johnson entered Wednesday’s opening round game of the Southland Conference Baseball Tournament without a blemish on his SLC postseason record. The Sam Houston State skipper ended the day the same way.

 

Freshman Sean Weatherford gave Johnson a great performance on the hill and the No. 7 Bearkats busted out the bats in a 9-2 win over No. 2 Southeastern Louisiana. The Kats will now face Texas-San Antonio Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m.

 

“I think the biggest part of the game is when you have the guy on the bump throwing strikes and keeping you in the game,” said Johnson, who is now 9-0 in Southland Tournament games. “Sean kept us in the game early and kept battling. We started nipping away and kept putting the ball in play to do well early in the innings. Sean was the story of the day and he did a great job for us. When you can stretch out nine innings from your starting pitcher and not get into your bullpen, it’s a pretty special thing.”

 

Weatherford (8-5) allowed nine hits in his nine innings of work with both runs against him earned. He notched four strikeouts and walked three batters. Twice early in the game, the Bearkat hitters staked Weatherford with a lead and twice the Lions were able to answer. With his club leading 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth, Weatherford was able to work his way out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam to preserve the lead. He allowed just one hit the rest of the way.

 

“It was great to get out of the fifth inning without any damage. We practice situations like that and I was prepared for it,” Weatherford said. “It was awesome for our offense to come through like that, it let me know I could just go out there and pound the strike zone and just let the defense do their job.”

 

The Bearkats struck first in the top of the first inning when Jon Reed drove in Braeden Riley who led off the game with his 100th hit of the season. After a Lion run in the bottom of the frame, the Kats got the lead back in the second on a Riley groundout that brought home Tyler Knight.

 

With the scored tied at two heading into the fifth, senior Nick Zaleski provided a boost to the Bearkat offense with a solo homer to left field off Lion starting pitcher Brandon Efferson.

 

“I fouled off a few really good pitches he made and was fortunate enough to get one I could drive,” Zaleski said. “I put a good swing on it and got enough to get it out.”

 

The Kats broke the game open in the seventh inning scoring, five runs off two Lion relief pitchers. Mark Wyatt and Knight singled with one out. Then Daniel Nottebart, Heath Pugh and Adam DeLaGarza all drew walks, with Pugh’s and DeLaGarza’s bringing home runs. Riley then followed with a two-run double and Zaleski capped it off with a run scoring single.

 

NOTES 

Hit kings -- Braeden Riley had a pair of hits in the game to increase his season total to 101. He has now moved into a tie with former Bearkat Todd Sebek for the second-most hits in a single Southland Conference season. The all-time leader is also a former Bearkat, Keith Stein with 103. Riley, Sebek and Stein are the only three players in Southland Conference history to post 100 or more hits in a single season.

 

Going the distance -- Sean Weatherford’s complete game was his third of the season. It also marked the second consecutive season the Bearkats have had a freshman toss a complete game in the first round of the SLC Tournament. Dallas Gallant went the distance in last year’s opener against Northwestern State.

 

On a tournament roll The win over the Lions was the ninth straight victory for the Bearkats in the postseason. The last time the Bearkats have been defeated in a Southland Conference Tournament game was a loss to Northwestern State in 2000.