HUNTSVILLE – Sam Houston State baseball made plenty of noise with a run to the NCAA Super Regionals in June. That sound reverberated on Monday night in the professional ranks.
Huntsville native and Bearkat alumnus Caleb Smith made his highly-anticipated Major League Baseball debut after being called up to the New York Yankees early Sunday morning. The left-hander, who ranks tied for fifth in Sam Houston career history with 204 strikeouts, was dominant early.
Smith entered in the sixth, setting down the Minnesota Twins in order in the next two innings highlighted by three strikeouts. The Huntsville High School product ultimately ran into trouble in the eighth, drawing the loss despite showcasing his ability to switch speeds including 97 mile-per-hour fastball.
TEPERA DOMINANT, KATS WELL REPRESENTED
With Smith's debut underway, fellow Sam Houston pitcher Ryan Tepera was also in action across the American League East for the Toronto Blue Jays. The right-hander used 15 pitches to retire the Boston Red Sox in order in the eighth, securing a 4-3 Jays victory while moving to 5-1 on the season.
The duo are among 10 Sam Houston pitchers and 15 total players active in pro baseball, joining minor leaguers Greg Belton, Alex Bisacca, Logan Boyd, Ryan Brinley, Cody Dickson, Heath Donica, Tyler Eppler, Bryce Johnson, Dustin Martin, Ryan O'Hearn, Nolan Riggs, Robie Rojas and Corey Toups.
Dickson, a fourth-round selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013, earned the win for the Double-A Altoona Curve on Monday, fanning seven hitters while allowing just two hits in five scoreless innings for the win. The start was his first since returning from the 7-day disabled list.
BEARKAT PIPELINE IN KANSAS CITY
While much of the attention has been on the mound, the Bearkats have garnered several notable performances at the plate. O'Hearn, the Kansas City Royals' No. 7 overall prospect, sent the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers into extra innings on Monday with a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
The first baseman, who has made a quick ascent up the minors since being drafted in 2014, has belted 77 home runs in less than four full seasons, including connecting in back-to-back games a weekend ago. The Frisco product is joined in Omaha by Sam Houston alum Corey Toups, manning left field.
Right-hander Greg Belton was promoted to the Class-A Advanced Inland Empire 66ers (Los Angeles Angels) last Wednesday. In his first appearance on Friday, the 2016 MLB Draft selection tossed two scoreless innings and owns a 3.15 career ERA in 40 appearances.
Logan Boyd has continued to be a steady hand for the Class-A Advanced Salem Red Sox, holding opponents without an earned run over his last 12 2-3 innings. During that stretch, the 2015 draft pick boasts a 15-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Looking to follow in Smith's footsteps with the Yankees, 2015 draft pick Alex Bisacca has impressed in five starts this season with the Class-A Short Season Staten Island Yankees. The Plano product has held opponents to three hits over 7 1-3 innings including picking up the win in his first outing on June 21.
Elsewhere, Riggs has cruised on the mound for the Class-A Augusta GreenJackets (San Francisco Giants), posting a 0.57 ERA in his last 10 appearances (15 2-3 innings) while striking out 13. In 27 relief appearances this season, Riggs has limited opponents to a .212 average while touting a 2.22 ERA.
There has been no shortage of output from the 2017 draft class. Rojas has made a splash with the Arizona Rookie League Brewers, hitting .438 (14 for 32) in 10 games with nine runs and 15 total bases. In 12 starts, Johnson is also on a tear, batting .317 (13 for 41) while plating nine runs alongside 14 total bases for the Class-A Short Season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (San Francisco Giants).