The Sam Houston State Bearkats took care of business Tuesday night after dominating the UT Arlington Mavericks 14-2 at Don Sanders Stadium to notch their eight consecutive victory and improve their overall record to 16-5.
SHSU’s offense and defense was working like a well-oiled machine during Tuesday’s win as the team scored in seven consecutive innings and put on a show in front of the 1,150 people in attendance.
“We have one of the best atmospheres in the state and for sure the best in the conference,” head coach Matt Deggs said. “For a Tuesday night game, the students were out there in full force and the stands were packed. I thought we came out and answered the call and got this thing rolling. I was proud of the offense. That is pack baseball as we were able to shorten and stretch the field. Once again, the defense was extremely good.”
Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Dakota Mills got the start on the mound for the Bearkats. He pitched six strong innings, allowed five hits, one earned run and struck out two Mavericks to set the tone. Deggs thought his team’s performance branched from Mills’ play on the mound.
“We know already what we are going to get when he is on the mound,” Deggs said. “Tuesdays are like Fridays for us. We are chasing a good RPI. UTA is a lot better than score indicates tonight. We have to know what we get out of our starters and Mills pounds the zone with many fastballs and a good slider and that is what he went out and did tonight.”
UT Arlington hit in the top of the first and made a statement right out of the gate. Maverick junior second baseman Christian Hollie smashed a home run to right center field to open the game’s scoring and give UTA a 1-0.
After the game, Mills joked about the home run, but said it ultimately allowed him to settle down and play his role. He also credited the defense behind him for an amazing performance.
“There is kind of a running joke going about the team where every time I touch the mound there is going to be a home run somewhere in there,” Mills said. “Now that it happened, I can just pitch. I cannot say enough about our defense. We had three double plays on the night and big catches. Our bats were amazing tonight. After the first inning all I wanted to do is go out there and pound the zone.”
However, that score would soon change in the bottom of the first when the Bearkats picked up the bats.
SHSU quickly responded to UTA’s homerun when sophomore left fielder Clayton Harp hit a triple to right center field, which rattled off the wall and allowed junior center fielder Bryce Johnson to score, making the game tied 1-1. Redshirt senior second baseman Lance Miles then singled, allowing Harp to score. The Bearkats ended the bottom of the first with sophomore first baseman Hunter Hurn hitting the ball to left field and Miles running it in to put the Bearkats up 3-1 going into the top of the second.
Mills and the Bearkats did not allow UTA to score in the top of the second, but the Kats were able to extend their lead in the bottom of the frame. In the bottom of the second inning, Johnson rifled a shot to left field for a RBI single, scoring senior shortstop Tyler Beene; and making the score 4-1 in favor of the Bearkats.
After another clean top-half, SHSU continued to pile onto its lead in the bottom of the third. Senior catcher Robie Rojas drilled a one out RBI single to center field, which brought home Miles. The Bearkats held a 5-1 lead after three full innings of action.
UTA was unable to crack into the Kats’ lead, adding another goose egg to the scoreboard in the top of the fourth. However, the Bearkat offense was relentless on the other end when they picked up the bats in the bottom of the inning. Harp singled to right field, which allowed both McKnight and Beene score, pushing SHSU’s lead to 7-1.
After the two RBI’s from Harp, Miles then hit into a fielder’s choice, driving in Johnson and advancing Harp to second. Following the RBI groundout, Fregia followed suit with an RBI of his own, singling up the middle and sending Harp home. The bottom of the fourth was the largest scoring inning for the Kats, as the team scored a total of four runs, and led 9-1 when UTA finally got three outs to end the inning.
The bottom of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings was no different for SHSU.
UTA was held scoreless and SHSU added three runs. Starting with sophomore Jaxxon Grisham pinch-hitting a triple, Beene then ground out to the short stop, which allowed Grisham to score, putting SHSU up 10-1 after five innings. In the bottom of the sixth, Fregia racked the third triple of the night for the Bearkats, placing for himself for the 3rd triple of the night for the Bearkats, placing junior Nate VanDyke out to hit. He hit a high fly ball, which sent home Fregia and brought the score to 11-1.
Finally, SHSU made its final round of scoring in the bottom of the seventh. Grisham scored on a wild pitch that was thrown by UTA’s junior right-handed pitcher Jordan West. On the following play, sophomore right fielder Mac Odom singled to the shortstop, allowing freshman Mike Williams to score and advancing Johnson to third base. Soon after, Fregia reached base safely on an RBI fielder’s choice, scoring Johnson and bringing the Bearkat lead to 14-1.
“Our goal each night is to score every inning,” Miles said. “We got close tonight but I think we will get there eventually this year. It was good to see us come out and work on all cylinders.”
The bottom of the seventh capped off a stellar offensive performance for the Bearkats. SHSU scored 14 runs on 17 hits and had five batters record multiple hits.
“We just keep getting better and better,” Deggs said. “The more we function as a unit, we are able to execute and surround the pitcher. It looked like a feeding frenzy as we shortened the field and lengthened the field with a bunch of doubles and triples. It is a very comfortable feeling out there, if we function together.”
The Bearkats will next face off against the University of Buffalo at Dan Sanders Stadium on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.