The Southland Conference is holding back the Sam Houston State baseball team. The Bearkats are without a doubt one of 20 most talented teams at the collegiate level, but their standard is too low. Playing in the Southland brings the Bearkats down to their level of competition, and it does not let them reach their potential.
The Bearkats have absolutely dominated in Southland play this season, but have struggled against top-level competition. Against the Southland opponents, the Bearkats are currently undefeated, holding a 12-0 conference record and winning games by an average margin of 6.8 runs per game, including winning four games by 10 or more runs. On top of that, the Bearkats are less than halfway through the conference season. Against top end competition, the Bearkats have not fared nearly as well.
The Bearkats have played three top tier opponents this season: the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the University of Texas and Baylor University. The Kats are a combined 1-5 against those three opponents, while also being outscored 32-17 in those games. Some of those outings have been close; one being a 2-0 loss to UL and another being a 6-5 loss to BU. However, the Bearkats could not capitalize in those losses and had opportunities to win. Even the first game against UT the Bearkats stranded runners early on, where if they were able to bring the runners home they could have had a lead, and it would have shifted the momentum of that game.
The problem is not that the Bearkats are incapable of getting hits at key moments, it is that aside from a midweek game against a power conference team every other week they do not need to get those hits. In the Southland Conference, the Bearkats margin for error is very high because they are on another level and are more talented than every other team in the conference. In a game against Abilene Christian on April 1, the Bearkats were trailing 11-6 going into the sixth inning, and then proceeded to score eight runs to steamroll their way to a 19-12 victory. Scoring double digit runs in a game is not uncommon for the Bearkats against Southland opponents; it is actually something they have done in six out of their 12 games.
The Bearkats need more pressure packed situations in order to get better in key scenarios. According to the statistics, there is no doubt they are talented and have no real weakness. They hit the ball well, both with contact and power. They field it well, and they have four starting pitchers that are more than capable of winning, to go along with a bullpen that can close out a game. SHSU is are a fundamentally sound baseball team, that is excellent at taking advantage of their opponents’ mistakes. SHSU has more than enough talent to make a run in the NCAA tournament, and perhaps even reach the College World Series. For that to happen though the Bearkats need to get better in pressure packed situations. The teams in the Southland conference are not talented enough to provide that kind of test, and therefore are holding the Bearkats back.