The 2019 Sam Houston State baseball season is nearly upon us, with Matt Deggs' team to open up the season on Feb. 15 in in DeLand, Fla. vs Manhattan.
This is the second of a five-part preview, position by position, of this year’s squad, leading up to the 2019 opener.
HUNTSVILLE – For Sam Houston State to meet its lofty expectations in 2019, they will need contributions throughout the roster, including at catcher where the Bearkats look to be as deep as they have been in recent memory.
Entering 2018 the Kats knew that replacing senior backstop Robie Rojas would be a tall task, but Sam Houston got plenty of production from the duo of Jordan Cannon and then newcomer Gavin Johnson. This year each of those players return, with the addition of junior college catcher Kyle Moos, giving coach Matt Deggs three options that he is comfortable turning to at any time.
“We have three really good catchers this year, which is a luxury that we have not had here before,” Deggs said. “Gavin was highly recruited because he can hit, Moos had 12-13 homers last year at junior college and Cannon has developed into one of our top hitters.”
Cannon did the bulk of the work behind the plate a year ago, playing in 53 games and 48 at catcher, serving as the Kats’ primary backstop. He finished with six homers with 31 RBI and nine doubles in his first year as a regular everyday player. Cannon had been used not only at the plate, but also on the mound as pitcher in his first two seasons and could still be used as a reliever at times this year, just adding to the Kats’ embarrassment of riches on the staff.
He was a true workhorse behind the dish in 2018, starting 27 games in a row at catcher at one point and delivered some of the top moments of the season for Sam Houston, including his game-tying solo home run in the win over Vanderbilt with two outs in the ninth at Minute Maid Park.
“Cannon is really physical, and his athleticism is through the roof for a catcher,” Deggs said. “He is going to need to be in the lineup. He’s also got so much versatility and could be used on the mound, or start at DH if someone else is catching that day.”
Cannon did much of the catching last year, but the Kats still got a huge boost from Johnson late in the year. Originally a Rice signee, Johnson joined the Kats last year from New Mexico Junior College and struggled at the dish early on before breaking through in May.
After starting just five of the first 54 games of the year Johnson started four of the final games of the year, including two of three in the Southland Conference Tournament. His pinch-hit single in the series opener at UIW extended the ninth inning and eventually propelled the Kats to a win which clinched the league title. He responded with hits in each of his next two games and will look to carry the momentum of a strong 2018 finish into the 2019 season.
“For some guys it really takes them a while to get their footing in college and he is really starting to hit his stride now,” Deggs said. “I expect him to hit somewhere in the middle of the order, whether catching or at DH.”
Just with Cannon and Johnson the Kats would have a formidable 1-2 backstop punch, but the addition of Moos makes catcher arguably the deepest position on the Bearkat roster. A 6-0, 200-pounder from Castroville, Moos missed the bulk of fall practice due to an injury, but is ready to go for the 2019 opener.
With Johnson hitting from the left side, Moos teams with Cannon to give the Kats a pair of powerful right-handed options at catcher. He showed that power during his sophomore season at Northeast Texas Community College where he hit 13 home runs and had 43 RBI in 2018 on his way to earning all-region honors.
“Nobody really saw him in the fall, but we knew exactly what we had,” Deggs said. “He was a big part of helping his team to the regional championship game in junior college, which had not happened in a long time. He is a very heady player too, which gives us a good issue to have with three catchers that we really need to find time for.”
The season opens on Friday, February 15 against Manhattan, as part of a three-day tournament in DeLand, Fla., hosted by Stetson. The home opener will be Feb. 19 against Texas Southern. Tickets to the home opener are available now.
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