CORPUS CHRISTI They might as well re-name this the Mark Johnson Postseason Invitational. For the third consecutive season the Sam Houston State Bearkats have rolled undefeated through the Southland Conference Baseball Tournament to advance to the NCAA Regionals.


The Bearkats got two great pitching performances from starter Jacob Howard and tournament MVP Matt Shelton and some clutch hits throughout the night, which included a 46 minute rain delay to dispatch the regular season champion Texas State Bobcats 7-1 on Saturday night at Whataburger Field.


“It was exciting tonight when we really got on it quick,” the SHSU skipper said. “The game of baseball is a little odd, the balls they hit well were right at us and we were able to get some double plays out of them while our hits fell through a little bit.  I thought we attacked well, but it really comes down to the guys out on the bump.”


It was the Bobcat who struck first in the game, with Lance Loftin connecting for a solo home run in the second inning to put the Bobcats up 1-0. It took one inning for the Bearkats to respond. Heath Pugh led off the third inning with a single and Braeden Riley tripled to bring him home. A groundout by Ryan Mooney scored to give the Kats a lead they never relinquished.


Mark Wyatt got the Kats on the board with his second home run to lead off the fourth inning. SHSU put two more on the board in the frame on an RBI single by Adam DeLaGarza to bring home Daniel Nottebart another RBI by Mooney.


“I believe it was a curveball kind of low.  He threw me some curveballs early in the at bat that made me look kind of foolish, so I had a feeling that I had to be looking for it,” Wyatt said. “I felt that I could still react to the fastball so I just widened up and looking to put it into play. Fortunately I got enough of it and it was able to just stay fair. It gave us a two-run lead and from then on we just started hitting a little better.”


It was all the breathing Shelton needed to finish off the Bobcats. He entered the game in the top of the fourth for Howard and pitched the next 5 2/3 innings allowing four hits, three in the final inning, to pick up his second win of the weekend and improved to 7-0 on the season. He threw 77 pitches, 55 for strikes in his second outing of the tournament, recording eight strikeouts for the game and 12 on the week. His outing was also broken up by a 46 minute rain delay.


“After the rain delay, I was really pumped and was thinking to myself that I would have to step it up.  If I came out of the rain delay not doing so hot, it was going to hurt me,” Shelton said. “It hurt me a little bit because I was really up there emotionally.  I was really ready to go and ready to rock.  I came out of the rain delay and I was ready to rock again.  I have never gone that long in time, since high school really.  I had a lot of fun out there, it was really a blast.”


Ryan Tepera came on with two outs in the ninth to record a strikeout of Cody Gambill to cap the victory.


“I told these guys when we got into the tournament that there is always somebody that just comes out of nowhere to eat up some innings for you or swing the bat that hasn’t done it the whole time,” Johnson said. “Matt went out and we haven’t asked him to go that long and be that effective.  He did both of those things for us, he gave us distance in the tournament and held them at bay while we gained the lead.  I thought mentally he was very, very strong and his stuff was a discouragement.  His stuff was deadly tonight so it was discouraging to our opponents.”


Four Bearkats were named to the All-Tournament team with position players Wyatt at catcher and DeLaGarza in the outfield. Game 1 starter Sean Weatherford, who pitched a complete game on Wednesday, joined MVP Shelton as the two All-Tournament pitchers.


The NCAA Regional field will be announced on Monday at 11:30 a.m.