Despite picking up a pair of losses in their season opening series against Brigham Young University this past weekend, the SHSU baseball team still has a lot to look forward to.
With four new starters, a new coach and a fresh name on a still-new stadium, the series against BYU revealed a transformed Bearkat baseball team that could create some waves in the Southland Conference this season.
The crowd was big and hopes were high on Opening Night at Sanders Stadium as the Bearkats took the field under the misty lights dressed in new retro stirrup socks, creating the allure of tradition and professionalism.
But things didn’t exactly turn out as many fans may have hoped as the Bearkats suffered a devastating 17-8 loss to BYU (2-1) in the first game of the season for both teams.
Senior Timothy Gray started on the mound for the Bearkats and pitched four innings before being pulled after giving up four runs on nine hits. With the Bearkats ahead 5-6 in the fifth inning, Stephen Spaugh came in for Gray and promptly gave up five runs on four hits for the loss.
Though the Kats were able to drive in eight runs, the lack of solid pitching proved fatal as BYU was able to score twelve more runs in the final four innings of the game.
The dawn of a new day proved beneficial for the Kats as Saturday drew an entirely different performance out of the SHSU team.
Sophomore Jacob Howard started for the Bearkats on Saturday and pitched six scoreless innings while giving up just five hits to the BYU offense. Howard’s work on the mound earned him the distinction of Southland Conference Pitcher of the Week, setting high standards for future performances.
Junior centerfielder Keith Stein, a transfer from Texas A&M, hit a double in the bottom of the second and scored the first Bearkat run on a single from junior left fielder Todd Sebeck.
The SHSU offense widened the gap in the bottom of the third as senior shortstop Jeremy Holzbach, formerly at centerfield for the Kats, led off the inning with a bunt single and scored on a triple by DH Bobby Verbick. After Verbick scored on a ground-out by senior third baseman Austin Boggs, senior first baseman Karl Krailo doubled and sophomore catcher Heath Pugh tripled to put the Bearkats ahead 4-0.
Verbick went 2-3 at the plate while Sebek and Boggs, both transfers from Texas A&M, each went 2-4.
The Kats closed the series on Sunday with a 5-2 loss to BYU as starting pitcher Jesse Marshall gave up four runs in five innings for the loss.
The series brought many new faces out for the Bearkats as head coach Mark Johnson made several changes to the roster and moved players across the field. Four new starters played for the Kats, including an entirely new outfield made up of Sebek, Stein and returning Bearkat Matt Fry, who was formerly stationed in the infield.
Spaugh, another veteran, moved from catcher to pitcher as Boggs took the position behind the mound. Holzbach left centerfield to replace starting shortstop Josh Warren in Game One and remained at the position for the final two games.
The Bearkats (1-2) play the University of Houston (2-2) today at 7 p.m. at Cougar Field.