Mark Johnson's Kats Claim NCAA Bid

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NATCHITOCHES, LA -- Sam Houston State will be making its fourth trip to the NCAA baseball national playoffs after winning the Southland Conference post season tournament title Saturday with a 3-1 victory over Texas State-San Marcos.

The fourth seeded Bearkats went unbeaten in four games at the tournament, paced by outstanding pitching, timely hits, and big defensive plays at key moments.

Tim Gray (6-3), who had the save in Sam Houston's Thursday victory over No. 2 seed Lamar, got the victory Saturday, allowing five hits in five innings and striking out five. Jacob Howard, who got the victory Wednesday in SHSU's first round win over Texas State-San Marcos, pitched the next three and two thirds innings. Luke Prihoda picked up his 17th save of the season, getting the final out.

Texas State-San Marcos scored first as Aaron Garza and Paul Goldschmidt hit back-to-back doubles to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning

With one out in the top of the fifth inning, Aaron Cook was hit by a pitch, Heath Pugh singles and Jeremy Holzbach walked to load the bases. Clint Mann grounded out to short to score Cook, then third baseman Adam Witek made an error on a ground ball by Keith Stein, allowing Pugh to score and the Kats to go up 2-1.

Sam Houston added a third run in the sixth as Nick Zaleski singled, Cook walked, and Pugh singled to score Zaleski.

Sam Houston State made NCAA appearances in 1987, 1989, and 1996. In 1987, the Bearkats upset Oklahoma and Indiana State in the regional in Austin before falling to Houston. In their last NCAA appearance in 1996, the Kats upset No. 2 ranked Miami, also in Austin.

The Bearkats had not had a winning season since 1998 and had not been in the SLC post-season tournament since 2000 before this year's turnaround.