HUNTSVILLE – Just hours after dropping the opener of a three-game series with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the Sam Houston State Bearkats flexed their muscles to power past the Islanders and sweep both ends of a doubleheader on Sunday at Don Sanders Stadium.
The Bearkats’ (26-19, 16-8 SLC) series win sets up a showdown between the top two teams in the league next weekend when SHSU heads to Southeastern Louisiana with both teams knotted at the top of the SLC standings.
Sam Houston erupted for double digits in both ends of the day’s twinbill, highlighted by freshman Colton Cowser hitting for the cycle in an 11-5 victory in the opener. The Kats then erupted for a pair of big innings in the finale, ending the game in abbreviated fashion with a 12-2 win in just seven innings.
Cowser finished with five hits, four for extra bases, and six RBI in the two games, but was far from the only bat to get going. Riley McKnight came just a homer short of the cycle in Game 1 and then added two more RBI in Game 2, while Jordan Cannon had three doubles and four RBI in the twinbill.
Meanwhile, the Kats got a pair of much-needed starts from lefties Seth Ballew and Dominic Robinson to handle business on the mound. Ballew allowed just two runs in 4.2 innings against the league’s top statistical offense entering the weekend, while Robinson turned in 5.0 innings with just two runs allowed to earn the win in the second game.
The Kats will host its final home non-conference game on Tuesday when it takes on Florida Atlantic at 6:30 p.m. at Don Sanders Stadium. They will then head to Hammond, La., over the weekend for a showdown with fellow first-place rival Southeastern Louisiana.
Game 1 (Box Score)
Sam Houston 11, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 5
The Kats had a tough draw in the opener with Islander ace Dustin Lacaze getting the start, but SHSU roughed up the junior righty for five runs on nine hits before knocking him out in the fifth inning.
Sam Houston had 16 hits in the game with eight going for extra bases, including three from Cowser in a 4-for-5 game that included four RBI.
The Kats trailed 1-0 early in the game after the Islanders got a run in the second inning, but Sam Houston responded with three runs with two outs in the bottom half of the inning and piled on from there. McKnight got it started with an RBI triple and two batters later Cowser legged out a triple of his own to score McKnight and Cannon for a 3-1 lead.
Two innings later McKnight, Cannon and Cowser delivered consecutive doubles to bring in two more and after reliever Riley Gossett entered to end an Islander rally in the fifth, McKnight and Cannon pushed home three more runs to give the Kats an 8-2 lead.
Gossett would go on to toss 1.1 scoreless innings and picked up the win before handing it off to the duo of Cody Wolf and Nick Mikolajchak who got the Kats to the finish line.
Sam Houston still managed to add on three more runs, getting one in on a double play in the seventh and then two more in the eighth. The first run in the eighth came from Cowser as he capped his cycle by driving the first pitch of the inning off of reliever Chris Glover over the left-field fence for his seventh homer of the year. Gavin Johnson would later add an RBI single, making him the fourth Kat in the game to drive home a run.
Game 2 (Box Score)
Sam Houston 12, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (7 innings)
The offensive onslaught continued in Game 2 as the Kats gave Robinson plenty of support from the beginning.
Islander starter Mason Hopkins retired the first six hitters he faced, but freshman Luke Repka opened the third inning with a single and started a rally that saw the Kats send 10 hitters to the plate and push across five runs. A two-run double from Cowser got the first runs home and Clayton Harp, Johnson and Jack Rogers all added RBI singles in the inning.
Sam Houston piled on six more runs in the fifth, starting with a one-out solo homer from Hunter Hearn that was part of a 3-for-4 game with three runs scored. By that time the Islanders were already in the bullpen and the Kats did not let up.
Cody LeCompte entered and walked three straight hitters before David Worrell issued a free pass to Jackson Loftin to bring in another run. McKnight and Cannon then continued their big days with consecutive two-run doubles to give the Kats an 11-2 lead.
The Kats needed just one more run to put the run-rule in effect and got just what they needed on an RBI single by Chase Cryer in the bottom of the sixth, setting up Mikolajchak to bring home the win with a perfect seventh inning.