The Sam Houston State University Bearkats baseball team concluded to 2018 Shriner’s College Classic at Minute Maid Park with a 4-1 loss to the Mississippi State University Bulldogs. SHSU picked up one win in three games over the three-day tournament.
The Kats ran junior southpaw Seth Ballew out for his third start of the season. Ballew was in search of his first decision of the year, posting a 1.46 earned run average through his first two starts.
A rough first inning by the Bearkats propelled MSU out to an early 3-0 lead that was the difference in the ballgame. The Bulldogs strung together a series of hits accompanied by an SHSU error that led to a big top of the first inning.
Former SEC Freshman of the Year junior center fielder Jake Mangum opened up the contest with a hustle single followed by an E4 that moved him into scoring position. Freshman first baseman Tanner Allen was a thorn in the Kats’ side all afternoon, sparking the Bulldogs offense with an RBI triple to right-center field to get the scoring started.
Ballew settled down after that frame as he ran off 4 2/3 scoreless innings from that point, departing with 5 2/3 innings on the day allowing three runs and surrendering six walks to MSU. SHSU’s offense had a hard time getting anything going as it was shut down by Bulldog senior starting pitcher Jacob Billingsley.
“I can’t say enough good things about him,” associate head coach Jay Sirianni said. “He got us into the sixth inning. That’s what you have to do against good arms—attack him early and that’s what they did.” Sirriani took over the head coach duties after Matt Deggs was ejected in the bottom of the first inning following a close play at first base.
Billingsley picked up his first win of the season, improving to 1-0 on the strength of six shutout innings where he gave up just five hits while striking out six Bearkats.
SHSU finally cracked the run column in the bottom of the eighth when junior pinch hitter Jaxxon Grisham singled home junior outfielder Clayton Harp to cut the deficit to 4-1 before the ninth inning.
“We just couldn’t get in that groove hitting,” Harp said. “We all got hits and just kind of stranded each other out there. It was a good week. We had a lot of fun, learned a lot and played some good SEC teams.”
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Nick Mikolajchak provided a steady arm out of the bullpen, keeping the Bulldogs at bay the rest of the game with 3 1/3 innings of relief. Mikolajchak surrendered a lone unearned run on three hits, walking one and notching a strikeout.
The great performance on the bump was not enough to lift SHSU, though, as the Kats ninth inning produced another scoreless frame and SHSU dropped the Sunday game of the College Classic to MSU 4-1.
“We’re just gonna keep playing hard,” Sirianni said. “Our guys are going to rebound tonight on the way home, and they’ll be the same group tomorrow.”
SHSU, now 7-4 this season, will be back on the diamond Tuesday and Wednesday against Prairie View A&M at Don Sanders Stadium in Huntsville. Both games will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday’s contest will be televised live on ESPN3.