HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats closed out a midweek sweep of Prairie View on Wednesday night at Don Sanders Stadium behind a strong performance from Dakota Mills and a pair of explosive innings early on in the game.
Mills got the start and was dominant for the Kats (9-4) against the Panther (2-8) lineup, nearly doubling his previous career high with 11 strikeouts in just 5.0 innings on the hill. He used just 82 pitches on the night, allowing only a pair of singles and no runs to pick up his first win of the season.
Prairie View starter Darrien Williams took the loss, allowing nine earned runs in 4.0 innings. He struck out six, but also walked three, issued four wild pitches and hit four batters.
Andrew Fregia led the offense with a 2-for-4 night that included a pair of extra-base hits and three RBI. His fifth-inning RBI triple not only made it a 10-0 game, but was his 14th three-bagger of his career, tying him with Hootie Murray and Gary Fischbeck for the all-time Sam Houston record.
Blake Chisolm also had a two-run double in the second inning, and Jaxxon Grisham scored a pair of runs and smashed his first home run of the season on the first pitch of the fourth inning off of Williams. Ben Haefner also finished 3-for-3 with an RBI and a pair of runs scored.
Sam Houston exploded for five runs in the second and added four more in the fourth, blowing things open early before taking the opportunity to get 17 separate position players in the ballgame, in addition to four relievers after Mills’ start.
The Kats stranded a pair of runners in the first, but exploded for five runs an inning later. Chisolm opened up the scoring with a two-run double off of Williams to score both Haefner and Chase Cryer, and Jordan Cannon followed that up one pitch later with an RBI single on the first pitch he saw in what would be his only at-bat of the night.
Clayton Harp added a single in the inning before Fregia unloaded a two-run double with two away in the inning to give the Mills a 5-0 advantage.
The big right-hander fanned four more over the next two frames before the Bearkat offense gave him even more cushion, adding to its lead when Grisham connected on a pinch-hit solo home run to right field on the first pitch of the fourth inning. Haefner added to his 3-for-3 night with an RBI double following a run-scoring wild pitch, making the advantage 8-0. Walks to Riley McKnight and Chisolm followed to load the bases before Williams made it 9-0 by uncorking another wild pitch that allowed Haefner to cross home plate.
Mills would add two more punchouts to his total in the fifth, his final inning of the night, and Sam Houston added another run to its ledger in the bottom half of the frame. Grisham reached to start the inning after being hit by a pitch and two batters later Fregia shot a triple off the left-center field wall, driving him home to up the advantage to 10-0.
From there the Bearkats turned it over to its bullpen as the quartet of Dominic Robinson, Colin Cameron Brad Demco and Nick Mikolajchak would each strike out a hitter in an inning of work apiece, allowing just one base hit between them in that span.
The Bearkats will kick off Southland Conference play this weekend when it travels to Beaumont to open up a three-game set at Lamar. First pitch of Friday’s series opener is set for 6 p.m. from Vincent-Beck Stadium.
QUOTABLES Coach Matt Deggs opening statement on the win over Prairie View …
“I thought it was another good day. I thought we were cleaner today and came out and did what we were supposed to do. We had an incredible pitching performance to set the tone by Dakota Mills. We swung the bats and defended it well, and I thought we finished our non-conference slate really well. We thought by this we would be at 10 wins going into the league, so we are right where I thought we would be. I like where we are at, but we have to still keep working to get better to start this thing off on Friday night.”
Deggs on Dakota Mills’ performance …
“He pounded the strike zone from the first pitch and his fastball was good on both sides of the plate. He kept them constantly behind in the count and then he threw in that slider. Anytime you locate that fastball it will help you become really effective, and that is what he did tonight.”
Deggs on Andrew Fregia, who tied the school career record in triples on Wednesday …
“He is really a dynamic player and one of the top prospects in the country for a reason, plus he is super versatile. It was really good to see him drive in runs and that is what I have liked the most out of him so far this year.”
Deggs on moving into conference play this weekend …
“I think this is exactly what the doctor ordered heading into the league, coming off the schedule we had. We have been able to gain confidence heading into the conference play, which is always a dog fight. This league is a 30-game war and each weekend there is 10 individual battles. The team that wants it the most usually comes out on the other end and takes it.”