SUGAR LAND – The last time Sam Houston State visited Constellation Field, the squad walked away with a Southland Conference Tournament championship. The stakes were much lighter on Tuesday but the Bearkats found a way to pull out another big victory.
Sam Houston upended No. 12 Houston, 5-4, capturing the opening game of the inaugural Don Sanders Cup by riding a strong start from Hayden Wesneski and steady outpour of offense.
Wesneski (6-1) held the Houston’s potent offense in check, limiting the Cougars (25-11) to three hits over five frames. The right hander permitted four walks while fanning two before a pair of relievers bridged the gap to closer Nick Mikolajchak who secured his eighth save, holding Houston hitless over the final 1 1-3.
After producing a combined 12 hits in the final two games at Stephen F. Austin last weekend, Sam Houston (26-11) matched the total against the Cougars. Bryce Johnson finished 2-for-6 for his team-leading 17th multi-hit outing while Andrew Fregia, Robie Rojas and Lance Miles added two hits each.
HOW IT HAPPENED
After struggling to find its groove offensively in Nacogdoches, Sam Houston showed no signs of carry over. The Bearkats sent seven hitters to the plate in the opening frame including consecutive singles from Johnson and Mac Odom to lead off the game.
Sam Houston loaded the bases as Rojas reached on a fielding error and Hunter Hearn followed, beating the double-play ball as the run scored on a fielder’s choice. Making his first start since Feb. 28, hometown Sugar Land product Josh Biles drove a sac fly to center for a 2-0 advantage.
The bats continued the outburst in the third as Rojas produced a timely hit, sending a 1-1 double down the left field line, plating Fregia, who singled, all the way from first as the ball hopped around the tight corner in left, providing Sam Houston a 3-0 lead.
Wesneski was effective in his first start since April 1, inducing a double play to work around a leadoff walk in the second. The Wizard lived up to his nickname again in the fourth, escaping a bases-loaded jam after allowing a pair of one-out singles and a four-pitch walk, inducing a 6-4 inning-ending groundout.
Where Houston was unable to capitalize, Sam Houston did. Fregia and Rojas began the fifth with 0-1 singles. With one down, pinch-hitter Blake Chisolm sent a first-pitch RBI single into center. Miles followed suit, taking the first pitch into right for a 5-0 lead.
Houston broke through in the seventh, pushing across four runs in the 40-minute frame including a pair of triples and two-out RBI single from Jake Scheiner to trim the Sam Houston lead to 5-4.
STREAKS CONTINUE IN VICTORY
Hunter Hearn’s reached-base streak reached 20 games with a fielder’s choice RBI groundout in the first. Andrew Fregia moved his reached-base streak to 13 games with a single into right in the third. Lance Miles continued his tear, moving his reached-base streak to 12 with a first-pitch RBI single in the fifth. Robie Rojas’s hit streak moved to eight straight with a run-scoring double in the third.
Sam Houston returns to Southland Conference action this weekend, visiting Central Arkansas for a three-game set beginning at 6 p.m. Friday. The Bearkats, who have played three fewer league games than McNeese and have matched the program's best start at 13-2, head into Friday trailing the Cowboys by 1.5 games in the standings.
Head coach Matt Deggs on the victory…
“They’re (Houston) in everybody’s conversation to host (a regional) so it’s a great opportunity for us. I am really proud of the way we responded after what was really our first gut-check weekend of the year. We had a freshman that stepped up and got us into the sixth without giving up a run. I thought we defended it really well and came out swinging the bats.”
Head coach Matt Deggs on responding after dropping two on the weekend…
“We know what we’re capable of doing. That’s the first time we've had a bump in the road. I was interested to see how we’d come out and respond. I thought Bryce Johnson set a great tone and we were able to follow suit. Hayden Wesneski did a great job throwing up zeroes. He has a bright future.”
Catcher Robie Rojas on the two-run first inning and the victory…
“It was huge especially with Hayden Wesneski on the mound. We knew he would come out and throw well. We have a team that can play against anyone when we’re playing our best ball.”
Starting pitcher Hayden Wesneski on his outing…
“Our defense is really stellar. I feel like I don’t have to be perfect every time. When you go ahead 2-0 in the first inning, it makes it a lot easier. You try to fill up the zone and know you don’t have to be perfect. It was nice (to get the start) and know coach Deggs and everyone has your back.”