The Sam Houston State University Bearkats looked to continue their winning streak on Tuesday against the Prairie View A&M Panthers after they had a strong finish in their series win against Northwestern State University, which got the squad to a three and three record in conference.
The Kats took home their 200 win at Don Sanders Stadium after taking down the Panthers 16-5.
The Bearkats would have to look out for the Panthers’ leadoff hitter freshman Nick Gurka, who boasted a .327 batting average with three doubles, two home runs and 12 runs batted in.
However, the Bearkats had history on their side as they were on a 32-game win streak and were 50-2 all time to start the contest.
Senior outfielder Bryce Johnson quickly got the Bearkats on a roll with a four pitch walk to start the game, which extended his on base streak to 35 games in a row.
The Kats wasted no time at all and bunted and singled Johnson home after he stole second to take an early 1-0 lead.
The Bearkats piled on the runs with 16 plate appearances in the inning. A home run from freshman left fielder Josh Biles was the highlight of the inning and the Bearkats lead 12-0 into the top of the second.
Prairie View designated hitter junior Shannon Washington had something to say however and had four RBI’s with a triple and a bases loaded double to close the gap 12-5 into the bottom of the third.
SHSU answered back in the bottom the third, which they earned one run to make the lead 13-5.
Neither team was able to get anything across the plate for the next three and a half innings but the Bearkats scored a run after freshman right fielder Hunter Hearn hit his second triple of the game.
The Bearkats scored a few more runs in the eighth thanks to a single from Biles and took down the Panthers 16-5.
“We needed a game like this,” SHSU Head Coach Matt Deggs said. “We don’t really care who is out there opposite us. We play against ourselves every game.”
One player who had an exceptional game was Biles, who finished the night three for four with a home run, five RBI’s, and a walk.
“Honestly, I don’t know what was working for me at the plate,” Biles said. “I just wanted to get my shoulder down and my barrel on the bat. That’s what Coach always tells me.”
Another Bearkat who had a good performance was Hearn, who had two triples, which tied a school record set in 2011 and five runs scored on the night.
“I had no idea about the record,” Hearn said. “That’s pretty cool. I got some grief in the dugout though, because I couldn’t get them over the fence.”
The Bearkats have now won four of their last five games and are one inning away from winning all five.
In the first game of the set against the NSU Demons, the Bearkats held a 5-0 lead with three outs to go in the ball game thanks to a solid seven innings from starter junior right handed pitcher Sam Odom.
“I thought Sam Odom pitched his heart out like he does every Friday night,” Deggs said. “He definitely deserved better than that.”
Unfortunately, the Bearkats coughed up the lead in the ninth where they gave up 7 runs in the frame.
“We’ve got to flush this and get ready to come back out tomorrow,” Deggs said. “It’s a crazy game. We’ll bounce back tomorrow.”
And bounce back they did.
Bearkat starter Heath Donica turned in his strongest performance of the year, pitching 9 innings, only 2 hits was allowed and 1 run, striking out 3.
“Early on, I was commanding fastballs,” Donica said. “If I was throwing them away, I tried to sneak a few more in and I think that’s where we had success, especially late.”
The Bearkats trailed into the bottom of the eighth, but scored two runs thanks to a big pinch hit single from junior in fielder Matt Broadbent and an error by the Demon defense.
The troubles were shaken off from the night before and the Bearkats managed to close the game without any problems.
“We never panicked,” Deggs said. “They are the same guys every day. Matt Broadbent hadn’t played in a couple days and came off the bench to get a big hit there. This is a team that will keep getting better and better. Broadbent had a great approach and put a good swing on that ball.”
The final game and decider as to whom would take the series proved similar, but very different to the previous contest.
The score line was the same, 2-1 where the Bearkats were on top. The Demons scored in the seventh and both Bearkat runs came from the bottom of the eight. The big difference, however; was how the Bearkats scored the game winning runs.
In a sequence described by Deggs as miraculous, the Demons pitchers in the eighth inning both had an error and balked in a run.
A balk is when a pitcher doesn’t freeze on the mound at any point and then directly delivers the ball. This rule makes it possible for stolen bases and leadoffs to occur.
The first pitcher slipped on the mound and fell after his motion stopped, resulting in a balk, and that sent the tying run to the plate.
The next pitcher fumbled the ball on a pickoff attempt at first and that also resulted in a balk, which sent the go ahead run home.
“It was a weird experience,” Johnson said. “We didn’t really do anything, but we won the game. I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s a big boost though.”
The Bearkats travel to Nicholls State with all the momentum in the world and that should help in the stadium.
“Those conditions are rough,” Deggs said. “The wind blows right in your face. Nicholls is also a good club. They aren’t afraid to play small ball.”
The Bearkats starters will be tested at the plate by senior infielder Kyle Reese, who boasts a .403 batting average, with four doubles, 22 RBI’s, and three stolen bases.
The Kats take on the Colonels in a special Friday, Saturday, Sunday set due to the weekend holiday.