2009 brings new expectations

For most of its history, Sam Houston State baseball was not a contending factor in the Southland Conference. Two years ago when Mark Johnson took over as head coach, the Bearkat baseball team became a leading player in the SLC.

In two consecutive seasons, Johnson has won the SLC baseball tournament with an unblemished record.

“We have done really well in the tournament,” Johnson said. “But San Antonio seems to always win the regular season.”

He is currently ranked 18th among active coaches in most wins, with 953, and with luck next season, he will win his 1000th game.

From the past two seasons, the Bearkats have a record of 77-49. In those seasons, the team has set 18 school records including RBI’s, hits, doubles, and triples.

This season, things might be a little harder. The Kats lost six-positional starters, and will rely heavily on a veteran pitching staff.

Defense will not be the team’s only weapon. Third baseman Seth Hammock will be the central focus of the Kats’ offense, along with catchers Heath Pugh and Mark Wyatt.

The biggest test this season will not come from Houston-based rival Rice Universiy, who has reached the College World Series seven times, but instead, it will be University of Texas- San Antonio.

They have had the best record in season the past two years, and will return a strong veteran group. Other divisional rivals will include Lamar and Texas State.

The team’s tough schedule is another staple of Johnson’s career. This season the Bearkats will play against top contenders such as Rice, Houston Baptist, Dallas Baptist and Johnson’s former team, Texas A&M.

“Right now I am just looking forward to playing games,” Johnson said. “We have been practicing since September and it will be nice to get back to playing other teams.”

The one certainty will be SHSU’s reliance on its young players. Players like Shawn Weatherford, the right-handed pitcher out of Bryan, has impressed coaches this season.

“This is a new year,” Johnson said, “with a whole new team.”

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