Kats drop two against SFA, still No. 1 in offense

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The Sam Houston State Bearkat baseball team is in the middle of another solid season, as they look to claim back-to-back Southland Conference titles.

The Bearkats reeled off 12 straight conference wins, before losing two of three last weekend at Stephen F. Austin. Nonetheless, the Bearkats still control their own destiny in terms of winning the Southland Conference regular season title.  The Bearkats sit with a conference record of 13-2 and are just a game and half back of the McNeese State Cowboys, who hold a 16-2 record in SLC play.

SHSU and MCN play one three game series this season starting April 28 at Don Sanders Stadium in Huntsville.

“We have played extremely well in all three phases of the game,” head coach Matt Deggs said. “We have pitched it super-efficient, and we have dominated routine plays, and have gotten big hits.”

Senior catcher Robie Rojas has spearheaded the Bearkats at the plate this season. The senior is hitting .406, which is good for third in the Southland. Sophomore outfielder Hunter Hearn is also among one of the Southland’s best hitters as he ranks seventh in the conference, boasting a .386 batting average.

Rojas and Hearn are leading the Southland’s top batting team, as the Kats are hitting a .319 as a unit, which is good for the top spot in the conference. The Bearkats also own three of the top six RBI men in the conference.  Senior infielder Lance Miles and sophomore outfielder Clayton Harp both sit at third in the conference with 24 RBI’s apiece, and Hearn sits at sixth in the conference with 23 on the season.

Those three lead a Bearkat offense that is number one in the conference in runs per game.

“It’s definitely been a team effort,” Deggs said. “I think everybody has functioned extremely well together. Robbie Rojas has had a really good run in conference; you know Heath Donica, the usual suspects there.”

The Bearkats have several standouts on the mound as well. Senior starting pitcher Heath Donica is leading the Bearkats on the mound, as his 2.67 ERA ranks seventh in the conference and his four wins in conference play is tied for second in the SLC along with fellow Bearkat starter redshirt sophomore Seth Ballew.  Freshman closer Niko Mikolajchak sits at second in conference saves with seven this season.

“He [Mikolanchak] is a pretty special arm,” Deggs said. “He’s got a big arm, from a very, very difficult arm slot. He’s got ice in his veins, he loves the big spot, he loves the moment, nothing really gets to him, and so he was a pretty obvious choice for us.”

At the midseason point, SHSU is looking formidable, and are one of the top contenders for the Southland Conference title. Rojas appears to be one of the top candidates for conference player of the year and is just one of many standout hitters in what has proven to be a loaded Bearkat lineup. Despite the Bearkats success, Deggs still sees room for improvement from his squad.

“We definitely need to continue to work, to get better,” Deggs said. “We stranded way too many runners this past weekend, we were a little too generous with the free passes. We have got to continue to work to eliminate walks coming out of the bullpen, and continue to cash in with two outs offensively.”

Before losing to SFA on April 14, the Bearkats had won 18 straight games in Southland play. SHSU will look to start a new streak this week, as they head out on the road again to Conway, Ark. to take on the University of Central Arkansas Bears. The series is set to on April 21 at 6 p.m.