HOUSTON – The Sam Houston State Bearkats put up five runs in the late innings and got another stellar performance from Hayden Wesneski to take down Houston Baptist, 6-3, in the Southland Conference opener on Friday afternoon at Husky Field.
Wesneski went 8.1 innings to pick up the win, put held the Huskies (4-9, 0-1 SLC) off the board for his final 5.1 frames of work before turning the game over to the bullpen in the ninth. He struck out a career-high 12 batters on 123 pitches, not issuing a walk until the eighth inning to move to 2-0 on the year.
But again it was the Bearkat (8-3, 1-0 SLC) offense that came alive late after having just one run on four hits through the first six innings. After that the Kats erupted for three runs in the seventh and added two more in the eighth on seven hits. The offense has now outscored its opponents 37-10 in the final three innings this season.
They needed that to come back against HBU starter Zach Carter who struck out five of the first seven batters he faced before going on to complete 7.1 innings with 10 hits allowed to fall to 1-2 on the year.
Nick Mikolajchak picked up his first save of the season after getting the final two outs of the game on fly balls to Mac Odom in center field after consecutive walks had brought the tying run to the plate for the Huskies. It was his 16th career save, tying him with Dakota Mills for third all-time at SHSU.
Offensively the Kats got two hit apiece from Riley McKnight, Hunter Hearn and Jordan Cannon, while Johnny Gonzales went 4-for-5 and was just a homer short of the cycle for HBU.
The Kats will try to clinch the series on Saturday afternoon against the Huskies. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. at Husky Field.
Carter struck out the side to open the game and the Huskies rewarded him with an early lead in the bottom half of the inning. Singles by Trent Franson, Chase Talbot and Johnny Gonzales loaded the bases with one out and Cal Clark got the game’s first run home by beating out a double-play ball, scoring Franson for a 1-0 lead.
After Wesneski worked a clean second inning, the Huskies got to him again for a pair of runs in the third. Franson ignited the inning again with the first of three HBU triples in the game and one batter later Talbot reached on an infield single, bringing Franson home. Gonzales followed with a single of his own and two batters later Clark got his second RBI of the game with a sure single into right field to push the lead to 3-0.
Sam Houston finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth, with the help of a pair of Husky errors. The first put Riley McKnight on base to open up the inning and one batter later Colton Cowser singled to left field, extending his hit streak to 11 in a row and putting a pair of men on base. HBU looked to be in position to get out of the inning unscathed, but shortstop Nathan Soriano misfired on a double-play try, allowing McKnight to score the Kats’ first run.
Wesneski worked around one-out triples in both the fifth and sixth innings to keep the Kats within striking distance, then the offense finally got going in the seventh. Cannon and Gavin Johnson each singled to open up the inning and two batters later Diego Davila slammed the first pitch he saw into the left-field corner for a double that brought in Cannon, while an error on the play allowed Johnson to score the tying run. Two batters later McKnight put the ball in play with Davila on third base, bringing in the freshman with the go-ahead run.
An inning later the Kats added on, and it did not take them long to do it. Hearn’s second single of the day opened it up and then Clayton Harp launched the first pitch he saw off the right-field wall for an RBI double to up the lead to 5-3. A bunt single by Cannon followed and set up Johnson who delivered a sacrifice fly to bring in the Kats’ final run of the game.
Things got testy in the ninth after Wesneski had retired the first hitter he saw. SHSU went to the bullpen for Kyle Backhus to face the top of the HBU lineup, but the lefty struggled to find the zone and issued walks to both Franson and Talbot, bringing up Gonzales as the potential tying run. SHSU then turned to Mikolajchak out of the pen and the junior right-hander came through, getting two nice defensive plays in center field from Odom on balls from both Gonzales and Brandon Bena to close it out.