FRISCO - The Sam Houston State Bearkats followed up their regular season championship by dominating the All-Southland Conference postseason teams, including freshman Colton Cowser being named the Southland Conference Hitter of the Year, in a release from league officials Monday afternoon.
The Bearkats put seven players on the All-SLC teams, tying for league-high honors with UIW who also had seven all-conference selections. In addition to being named Hitter of the Year, Cowser was also named to the All-SLC first team as an outfielder, while Hunter Hearn (first base), Hayden Wesneski (starting pitcher) and Riley McKnight (second base) joined him on the first team.
Seniors Clayton Harp (outfield) and Jordan Cannon (utility) earned second-team honors, while Jack Rogers (outfield) was named to the third team. Juniors Gavin Johnson (catcher) and Nick Mikolajchak (relief pitcher) both earned an honorable-mention nod.
McKnight also landed on the Southland Conference all-defensive team at second base.
ACU catcher Luis Trevino took the honor as the league’s Player of the Year after leading the SLC in each of the triple-crown categories, while Southeastern Louisiana’s Corey Gaconi was named the Pitcher of the Year. SFA starting pitcher Alex Palmer was named Newcomer of the Year and UNO stopper Reeves Martin was tabbed as the Relief Pitcher of the Year, while UIW took a pair of superlatives with Taylor Smith being named Freshman of the Year and head coach Pat Hallmark being named Coach of the Year.
The honor for Cowser comes as little surprise after a breakout true freshman campaign. The Cy Ranch High School product is the first Bearkat to ever take the honor as Hitter of the Year and led the SLC in batting average with a .388 mark in SLC games. He finished with 17 doubles, a league-high seven triples along with seven homers for the season, also finishing second in the league with 54 RBI.
He ranked in the top five in the SLC in batting average, slugging, on-base percentage, RBI, runs scored and hits, earning one SLC Hitter of the Week honor along with all-tournament honors at the Frisco Classic.
He tied for the team lead with 22 multi-hit games and led the team with 17 multi-RBI games, while also putting together a 21-game streak of reaching base safely. Out of 54 games played this year, he has managed to reach base in 51 of those games.
As for Hearn, his play over the last month helped him to land on the All-SLC first team for the first time, just one year after being named to the league’s third team. He ranked in the top 10 in the SLC in batting average, hits, RBI, home runs, doubles, triples and slugging percentage while finishing the regular season with a .333 average, 11 home runs and 50 RBI, all of which were career highs.
In SLC play he hit .369 with six homers and 27 RBI, including hitting for the cycle in the opener against Northwestern State, and he has won each of the league’s last two player of the week honors.
Hearn has sustained a red-hot bat over the past month, hitting .424 in 17 games since April 23. In that time, he has delivered 15 extra base hits – seven being homers – and 24 RBI while slugging at a .848 clip.
McKnight picked up his first All-SLC honor of his career after putting together his best year as a Bearkat in 2019. He hit .310 for the year with 57 total hits, 38 runs scored and 22 RBI. For the year he has totaled 14 extra-base hits and ranks fourth in the SLC with four triples.
The four-year Bearkat also led the SLC with 13 sacrifice bunts and had 16 multi-hit games, while hitting .319 in SLC play. Of his 22 RBI on the year, 20 came in league action.
He was also stellar in the field, landing on the all-defensive team. For the season he committed just four errors in 219 chances, posting a .982 fielding percentage.
For Wesneski, it is the third-straight season he has received recognition from the league after earning Freshman of the Year honors in 2017 and being a third-team choice a year ago. As a junior the right-hander has held down weekend openers since the first weekend of the year, making 14 starts on the year with an 8-3 record, 3.36 ERA, 107 strikeouts and just 20 walks in 99.0 innings.
His innings and strikeouts both lead the league, while his eight wins are the most among starting pitchers in the league. His strikeout total ranks in the top 20 in the nation and is tied for the third-most in a single season at SHSU, powered by five games this year with at least 10 punchouts.
Harp has been an every-day threat in the lineup throughout his senior season. He ranks in the top 15 in the league in both batting average (.330) and RBI (41). He had 22 multi-hit games on the year and 10 multi-RBI games, finishing the year with 69 total hits and 45 runs scored, while coming in with a .459 slugging percentage.
He opened up the year with a bang with a walk-off home run in a win over Louisiana as part of a two-homer, five-RBI game and also delivered consecutive three-RBI games on both ends of a doubleheader sweep at SLU to put the Kats back in front of the SLC race late in the year.
Harp enters the SLC Tournament ranking eighth all-time at SHSU with 139 RBI, while carrying a .315 career batting average and 16 home runs.
Cannon earned his first All-SLC honors by landing on the second team as a utility player, having played behind the plate, in the outfield and at designated hitter in his 51 games played this year. Arguably the team’s most valuable player, Cannon has flirted with the .400 mark throughout the year and still enters the SLC Tournament ranked second in the SLC with a .378 batting average.
His .458 on-base percentage also ranks second in the SLC and he has totaled 18 extra-base hits, 15 of which came in league action. The senior from Centerville also drove in 37 runs – 22 in SLC play – and led the Kats with 14 stolen bases. He has multiple hits in 22 games and 13 multi-RBI games and has reached base in each of his last 16 games going into Wednesday’s SLC Tournament opener.
Rogers also earned his first All-SLC honors by landing on the third team in the outfield. The sophomore started 50 of the 52 games he played in, hitting .305 with eight home runs and 29 RBI. His 19 doubles for the year are the second most in the SLC, and he finished third on the team with 28 total extra-base hits.
He earned SLC Hitter of the Week honors once this year following a huge weekend series against Lamar that included an inside-the-park homer and a walk-off solo homer in the ninth inning of what would be a series sweep by the Kats. Rogers also ranked eighth in the league with a .545 slugging percentage and scored 40 runs this year.
Mikolajchak’s nod is the first of his career as well, and well deserving after a great regular season. He tied for third in the conference with seven saves and goes into Sugar Land this weekend needing just one more to tie Luke Prihoda for the all-time saves record at SHSU. The right-hander made five starts, but earned his all-conference stripes as a reliever where he posted a 4-2 record, 2.20 ERA, 39 strikeouts, six walks and held opponents to a .211 average in 28.2 innings out of the pen.
He finished 12th in the league with 68 total strikeouts and since March 30, he has gone 4-0 with five saves, a 0.93 ERA, a .169 opponent’s batting average and 27 strikeouts to just three walks in 19.1 innings as a reliever.
Johnson also turned in a great junior campaign to work his way into an honorable-mention nod behind the plate. The San Antonio native started 42 of 53 games played and hit a solid .293 with five homers and 34 RBI for the year. He had 13 multi-hit games and eight multi-RBI games with 21 of his 34 RBI coming in SLC play.