Sam Houston State unleashed a barrage of runs on Northwestern State on Thursday night, with senior first baseman Hunter Hearn leading the way with the Bearkats’ second cycle this season.
The Kats scored seven runs in the first two innings, and that was all the offense they needed in an 11-5 home victory at Don Sanders Stadium.
Hearn, who came up a single shy of the cycle against Southeastern Louisiana on Sunday, sealed the deal with an RBI double in the sixth. The Crosby native finished the night with three RBIs and two runs scored.
“I wasn’t trying to hit for a cycle or anything, I’m just happy the ball fell,” Hearn said. “I was a double away from it tonight, and I was like, ‘I’m not going to try for it, because if you try for it, you start pressing.’ I was just trying to put the bat on the ball.”
Sam Houston State will wrap up the final series of the regular season with a doubleheader on Friday, with the first game set to begin at 2 p.m. The first-place Bearkats can clinch the regular-season league title with one more win, and will claim the championship outright with a sweep.
Adding to the excitement of the evening, Sam Houston State will hold its senior day festivities prior to Game 2 at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s super cool,” said Hearn of the chance to clinch a title in front of the home crowd on senior day. “It’s been a long four years, and I’m just thankful that we get another shot to take this thing.”
After giving up a run in the top of the first, the Sam Houston State bats erupted in the bottom half of the inning.
Freshman outfielder Colton Cowser, senior outfielder Clayton Harp, Hearn and junior designated hitter Gavin Johnson each delivered RBIs for the Kats during a four-run first. They plated three more runs in the following inning — including two on a home run by Harp, who went 2 of 4 with three RBIs and three runs scored — and added one in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh innings to stretch their run total to 11.
Sam Houston State received key performances from their one through four hitters, as Cowser, Harp, Hearn and senior catcher Jordan Cannon combined to go 11 of 19 at the plate with eight RBIs and six runs scored.
“When they’re rolling, they’re hard to handle,” Sam Houston State head coach Matt Deggs said. “That lineup can get really deep and really long in a hurry.”
Junior righthander Hayden Wesneski got the start for the Bearkats, and gave up just one run through the first four innings. However, Northwestern State scored two runs each in the fifth and sixth innings, leading to Sam Houston State calling on junior righthander Nick Mikolajchak from the bullpen to preserve a 9-5 lead.
Mikolajchak did just that, tossing 3 ⅓ scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and one hit allowed to secure his seventh save of the season and 22nd of his career — one shy of the school’s all-time record.
“Just a lot of attack,” said Mikolajchak of his approach in recent weeks. “I didn’t have a lot of my best stuff at the beginning of the year and wasn’t attacking the hitters, but now I’m attacking them and making them beat me.”
Sam Houston State enters Friday with a one-game lead atop the Southland Conference. Southeastern Louisiana and Central Arkansas are tied for second place.