Bearkats Upset by Islanders to Open 2019 SLC Tournament

A bad call and an unlikely longball bit the Bearkats as they dropped the tournament opener 2-1 to TAMUCC.
Photographer: Elissa Aquino

Regular Season Recap

The Sam Houston State University Bearkats claimed the 2019 Southland Conference regular season title with a 20-10 SLC record (31-23 overall). They entered the SLC Tournament as the No. 1 seed and were upset by the No. 8 Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders 2-1 to open play. SHSU named seven players to all-conference teams, including freshman Colton Cowser who took home Hitter of the Year honors for the conference.

The Bearkats and Islanders met up for a three-game set at Don Sanders Stadium in early May where SHSU took two out of three, outscoring TAMUCC 27-15 in the series.

The Longball

All three runs in the contest were scored via the homerun.

With the bases empty and one away in the bottom of the fourth, junior DH Gavin Johnson absolutely unloaded on a pitch and sent a homerun into the bullpen in right field to break the scoreless tie. Johnson’s solo shot was the first hit of the game for the Bearkats.

With two outs and a man on third in the top of the seventh inning, senior third baseman Enrique Sanchez Jr. blasted his first homerun of the season to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. The go-ahead bomb came after a questionable non-call on batter’s interference that would have ended the inning.

Pitching Around Traffic

Junior right-hander Hayden Wesneski pitched around a lead-off single in the top of the first to keep the Islanders out of the score column.

TAMUCC threatened again in the top of the second inning when a hit-and-run put runners on second and third with only one out. A ground ball to the all-defensive team selection Riley McKnight at second base allowed the Kats to get an out at home plate, and a ground out to freshman Diego Davila at third got the Bearkats out of the jam.

A one-out error gave the Isalnders some traffic in the top of the fourth, but senior catcher Jordan Cannon nailed Thomas Jeffries IV trying to swipe second base. Wesneski got a swinging strikeout on the next pitch to end the frame and keep the game scoreless.

Back-to-back singles int he top of the fifth put the Islanders in a position to tie the game with runners on the corners and one away. After a meeting on the mound, Wesneski buckled down and froze Itchy Burts with a slider for a strikeout. A fly out to right field stranded a pair of runners and preserved the 1-0 lead for the Kats.

Wesneski hurled 6 2/3 innings, giving up a pair of runs on seven hits and striking out three.

The Bearkats, trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, had some traffic of their own. Clayton Harp reached on a two-base error to lead off the inning. A walk to Hunter Hearn and a fielder’s choice put Kats at second and third with only one away. SHSU was unable to capitalize on the opportunity, however, as back-to-back strikeouts unceremoniously sent the game to the ninth inning with TAMUCC leading 2-1.

Looking Forward

The Bearkats will play the loser of Incarante Ward vs. McNeese Thursday at noon in an elimination game. The surviving team will play Friday at noon.

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