Freshmen pitchers carry load left by injured ace Howard

With their pitching ace sidelined with shoulder problems and a parade of freshmen taking the mound, the key for the Sam Houston State baseball team is to keep on keeping on.

After opening conference with a three-game sweep of Central Arkansas, the Bearkats (4-2, 13-8) dropped a pair of games at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi over the weekend on the road.

“Our mound is our question mark right now,” SHSU head coach Mark Johnson said. “Overall, I’m pleased for as many freshmen as we have playing, and in pitching in particular. I think our effort has been good. The key for us is to keep getting better.”

The Bearkats had three freshmen take the mound in the three-game series against the Islanders, including Flower Mound-product Zach Neal.

In his fifth start of the season, Neal (3-0) gave up eight hits and four runs in 2 2/3 innings while the win went to freshman Dallas Gallant, who allowed just three hits and two runs while striking out four.

“I think he (Zach) has done very well,” Johnson said. “He had a rough outing this past week, but he certainly brings his stuff every time.”

Jacob Howard, who is expected to be the Bearkats’ top pitcher again this season, has been sidelined for three weeks with shoulder problems. The junior right hander holds the lowest ERA on the team at 4.50 with a 1-0 record after finished last season with a team-best 2.70 ERA and 11-6 record. Johnson said he is unsure of when Howard may return.

Overall, the six freshmen who have appeared on the mound for the Bearkats this year have a combined ERA of 4.79 with a season record of 7-4.

Sam Houston State travels to Houston Baptist today before returning home on Wednesday to face Texas Southern at 6:30 p.m.

“We want to play better than we did last weekend,” Johnson said. “Our deal is to keep getting better and that is our plan going into Texas State.”

After the pair of non-conference games, the Bearkats resume SLC play on Thursday when they host Texas State (4-2, 12-7), who is currently tied with the Bearkats and UTSA for first place in the SLC-West.

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