For the third year in a row, Sam Houston State is headed to the NCAA regionals as an at-large selection. The Bearkats travel to Fort Worth where No. 7 national seed TCU will host.
Sam Houston (41-17) meets Dallas Baptist (40-19) in the first round, Friday at 2:30 p.m. while the Horned Frogs (42-15) face off with Siena (26-31) at 7 p.m.
The winner of the Fort Worth Regional will play the winner of the San Luis Obispo Regional in the Super Regionals. The four teams in that region include Cal Poly, Pepperdine, Arizona State and Sacramento State.
Every game of the Fort Worth Regional will be broadcast on ESPN3.
FRIDAY, MAY 30
Game 1: #3 Sam Houston vs. #2 Dallas Baptist - 2:30 p.m.
Game 2: #4 Siena vs. #1 TCU - 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, MAY 31
Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser - 2:30 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 1 winner - 7 p.m.
SUNDAY, JUNE 1
Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser - 2:30 p.m.
Game 6: Regional Championship Game - 7 p.m.
MONDAY, JUNE 2 (If necessary)
Game 7: Second Regional Championship Game - 7 p.m.
NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY
In eight previous NCAA postseason appearances, Sam Houston State has made it to two regional finals. Until 2012, SHSU’s best regional performance came at Ole Miss in 2007. The Bearkats bounced back to defeat Troy, 5-4, and Southern Mississippi, 12-11 (11 innings), to meet host Mississippi in the finals. In 2012 the Kats again bounced back from an opening round loss to eliminate Prairie View A&M, 4-2, and Rice, 4-1, to meet Arkansas in the finals. Last season the Bearkats beat Louisiana-Lafayette, 4-2, for the first opening round win since beating No. 1 Miami in Austin in 1996. The Kats then took on LSU in front of the then largest crowd (10,752) in the history of Alex Box Stadium, in Baton Rouge. SHSU took a 5-4 lead into the eighth inning before falling 8-5 to the No. 1 seeded Tigers. The season ended with a 7-5 loss to ULL in which the Kats had the go ahead runs on base to end the game. Twice, SHSU has knocked off the No. 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs, defeating Oklahoma, 5-1, in Austin in 1987 and knocking off Miami (the No. 2 team in the country), 5-4, in Austin in 1996. Sam Houston also held leads late against host Texas and UCLA before losing in the 1996 regional. The 1996 ‘Canes went on to play in the College World Series and lost in the national championship game.
KATS VERSUS TOURNAMENT TEAMS
Sam Houston State put up an impressive 10-6 record against eight tournament teams in 2014, including a 3-1 mark against regional foes Dallas Baptist and TCU. The Bearkats won a single game against Texas Tech in the Houston College Classic and had two-game splits with Houston, Rice and Texas A&M. SHSU swept the regular-season series against Southeastern Louisiana before falling to the Lions in the Southland Tournament. The only tournament team to hold an advantage over the Kats is Texas, who took the Houston College Classic title with a 3-2 win.
HISTORY WITH HORNED FROGS AND PATRIOTS
There will be quite a bit of familiarity between the top three seeds at the 2014 Fort Worth Regional. Sam Houston has played a combined 103 baseball games against TCU and Dallas Baptist. The series between the Bearkats and Horned Frogs began with a pair of games in 1950, including a 3-1 SHSU victory. The series has remained close throughout the years, with TCU holding a 32-30 edge all time. The Kats hold a 24-17 advantage over DBU, with the two teams playing every season since 2000. The series got started in 1970 and the teams played 13 times in the 70s and then not again for two decades. DBU holds a slight 14-12 edge since the series renewed in 2000. Sam Houston has never faced either team in postseason play. DBU and TCU do have some playoff history - in 2011 the DBU Patriots went to Fort Worth and won the regional tournament.
MID-SEASON STUMBLES CAN’T KEEP KATS FROM SOUTHLAND THREE-PEAT
Sam Houston was an overwhelming favorite to pull off the Southland Conference three-peat. They got off to a slow start in league play, dropping three of the first five Southland series and were swept for the first time since 2011. It appeared the Kats would cruise to the title after starting the season on fire, with a 13-3 record and three wins over ranked opponents. A midseason lull saw the Kats lose four straight at one point and fall out of the national rankings after rising to 16th. SHSU went just 10-10 from March18 to April 19 and faced a daunting trip to No. 12 Houston on April 22. The Kats would scratch and claw their way to a 5-4 win that sparked an 11-game winning streak. The Bearkats rattled off 12 straight league wins, sweeping the final four series, to claim the outright league championship.
SENIOR BACKSTOP NAMED SOUTHLAND PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Anthony Azar ranks among the Southland’s top-five players in seven different categories, including leading the league in slugging percentage (.560). The senior from The Woodlands also ranks second in RBI (47) and total bases (122), third in batting average (.376) and home runs (nine) and fourth in hits (82) and on-base percentage (.454). Azar is one of the toughest hitters to strike out in the nation, going down only 12 times in 218 at bats and drawing 23 walks. Azar has thrown out 20 attempted base-stealers on the year, which leads the league. Azar manages the Bearkat pitching staff that has a 2.79 team ERA, which ranks in the top 20 nationally. He is also Sam Houston’s first semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award, which goes to the nation’s top catcher.
EIGHT KATS NAMED ALL-SOUTHLAND
Led by Anthony Azar’s first-team selection, the Bearkats placed eight players on the All-Southland teams. First baseman Ryan O’Hearn, center fielder Colt Atwood and starting pitcher Tyler Eppler were each named to the second team, while outfielder/designated hitter Hayden Simerly received third-team honors. Third baseman Carter Burgess, shortstop Corey Toups and pitcher Jason Simms were all recognized as honorable mention selections.
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