HAMMOND, La. – The Sam Houston State Bearkats took hold of sole possession of first place in the Southland Conference on Sunday, sweeping a doubleheader from Southeastern Louisiana at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field.
The Bearkat (29-20, 18-9 SLC) offense came to life for 25 runs in the two-game set after being shut out in the series opener on Friday, taking the early game 11-7 before taking the finale by a 14-5 margin over the Lions (28-24, 17-10 SLC).
With just one weekend remaining the Kats are all alone at the top of the Southland standings with as many as three teams to be tied just one game back at the end of play on Sunday.
Game 1 (Box Score)
Sam Houston State 11, Southeastern Louisiana 7
The Bearkats scored four unanswered runs in the final three innings and Nick Mikolajchak threw 3.1 shutout frames from the bullpen as SHSU evened the series with a win in the day’s opener.
Mikolajchak was one of four Bearkat pitchers to see time on the hill, allowing just two hits and striking out four in his outing to earn his fifth win of the season. He moved into position for the win when Riley McKnight capped a 3-for-4 day with a leadoff homer in the seventh inning. Clayton Harp then added insurance in the ninth with a 3-run shot to right field off of reliever Grant Upton to give the Kats cushion in the final inning.
The Kats had a big day at the plate with 15 hits against the Lion staff, including four from Colton Cowser and three each from McKnight and Diego Davila. Cowser finished with a pair of RBI in the game and scored three times, while Hunter Hearn made the most of his two hits with a pair of doubles and two runs driven in.
They touched up SLU starter Mason Knopp for five runs in just four innings, but it was reliever Kade Granier who took the loss to fall to 2-3 on the year after allowing the go-ahead homer to McKnight.
Sam Houston got on the board for four runs in the top of the third, getting an RBI single from Cowser and a 2-run double from Hearn, but gave two of those runs back in the bottom of the inning.
An RBI double from Cowser an inning later pushed the lead back to 5-2, but again SLU answered, this time with four runs of their own. The second of Bryce Steckler’s two doubles on the day got the first two runs of the inning home for the Lions before RBI groundouts by Cody Grosse and Preston Faulkner pushed the Lions back in front 6-5.
Cole Wesneski helped bridge the gap from starter Seth Ballew to Mikolajchak, and with the help of Steven Beard, held the Lions in check moving into the sixth. A single by Cowser and a double by Hearn put the Kats in business in that inning with Gavin Johnson tying it up on a grounder before Davila surged the Kats in front with an RBI single to right field.
Unfortunately, the Kats could not hold the lead as the final of three errors of the game cost them a run in the bottom of the sixth; however, Mikolajchak came on to get the final out of the inning and did not allow SLU back on the board the rest of the way.
McKnight gave him the lead in the next half inning on his second homer of the year, this one off of Granier. Two innings later Harp found himself at the plate with two on and delivered his first hit of the day in his sixth at-bat, blasting his fifth homer out to right field to put the game on lockdown.
Game 2 (Box Score)
Sam Houston State 14, Southeastern Louisiana 5
The Kats staked themselves to a 7-0 lead and then erupted for a 6-run eighth to put it away in the day’s finale behind a strong start from Dominic Robinson on the mound and a 12-hit day at the plate.
Hearn finished just a single away from the cycle, homering and driving in four runs to lead the offense, while Cannon had three hits and a pair of RBI as well. Johnson homered and Harp had three RBI to cap a big offense day.
Meanwhile, Robinson was stellar in his longest start of his career. The junior lefty went 6.1 innings in just his second start of the year, shutting out the Lions for the first five frames. He scattered six hits and struck out three without walking a batter.
The Kats jumped all over Lion starter Will Warren, getting to him for three runs in the opening inning and another in the fourth before SLU went to Biddy for an extended appearance. It took SHSU just three hitters to get a run home on a ground ball by Harp to score Cannon, then Hearn opened up his game by blasting his 10th home run of the year over the right-field fence to score two.
An inning later the Kats did their damage with two outs getting an RBI triple from Cowser, then another run came in the third when SHSU took advantage of a leadoff triple from Hearn as he came around to score on a sac fly by Jack Rogers to up the lead to 5-0.
Robinson cruised through the fifth, keeping the Lions off the board, and got two more runs to work with in the sixth on RBI from Cannon and Harp; however, SLU finally was able to get on the scoreboard with a 2-run homer from Kyle Schimpf in the bottom of the inning.
Things got a bit dicey in the seventh when Evan Pace delivered a pinch-hit, 3-run homer that trimmed the lead to 7-5. Beard entered with one out and the tying run at the plate and needed just two pitches to get two outs and get out of the inning.
One inning later, the Kats delivered the big inning they needed to put it away, scoring six times. Harp got his third RBI of the game when he was hit by a pitch with the sacks loaded then Hearn followed with a bases-clearing double. One batter later Gavin Johnson blasted a 2-run homer to center field off of reliever Gavin Johnson to put an exclamation point on the inning, and the game.
The Kats will now immediately head west for their final non-conference game of the season, traveling to Tucson, Ariz., for two games Monday with the Arizona Wildcats. The teams will play one nine-inning game, followed by a seven-inning affair. First pitch for Game 1 is set for 6:00 p.m. CT from Hi Corbett Field. Updates via live stats and @BearkatsBSB will be available, as will a video stream on Pac-12.com.