The No. 23 Sam Houston State Bearkat baseball team opened the season Friday night with a 1-0 win over the University of Nevada Wolf Pack at Don Sanders Stadium.
Bearkat fans made their presence felt during the game, as they set a new stadium record with an opening day crowd of 1,262, which surpassed the previous record of 1,257 set in 2015.
“It’s a definitive edge for us,” head coach Matt Deggs said. “Our crowd adrenalizes this place, it was rowdy, you couldn’t hear down here on the field. It was a great atmosphere. I say it all the time, we have the best atmosphere in the league and it’s one of the best atmosphere’s in the state of Texas.”
Senior right-handed pitcher Heath Donica started on the mound for SHSU. Donica made quick work of the first inning, going three up and three down to start his senior campaign. However, Wolf Pack starter Trevor Charpie, who also faced just three batters in the first inning, matched Donica.
The game was a pitching dual through the first two and a half innings, as the two teams combined for just one hit. The bottom of the third marked the turning point of the game. After a leadoff hit by sophomore outfielder Clayton Harp, freshman outfielder Mike Williams moved Harp into scoring position by laying down a sacrifice bunt in his first collegiate at bat.
Harp stole third on the second pitch of the next at bat, and senior short stop Taylor Beene brought Harp home on a sacrifice fly, giving the Bearkats a 1-0 lead, and the only run of the game.
“I was kind of watching him on the pitches before to see what he was doing timing wise,” Harp said. “I was able to get a good jump and go.”
However, the story of the game was Donica. After getting run-support in the third, Donica did not slow his pace. He pitched a complete game shutout and allowed just one hit the entire game; he also did not allow a base runner until the ninth inning. Donica recorded career-high 14 strikeouts on 107 pitches, and most of those came by the hand of his slider.
“Coach Sirianni [SHSU’s assistant coach] and his experience is such a huge advantage to us on the field and me on the mound,” Donica said “The way that he calls pitches really led to a lot of success.”
The nationally ranked Bearkats will continue their three-game series against the Wolf Pack Saturday afternoon. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Seth Ballew is set to make his first start on the mound for SHSU since undergoing Tommy John surgery last season.
First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Don Sanders Stadium.