Bearkats victorious in season opener

Feb. 17—HUNTSVILLE — Coming off a season that saw several members leave in graduation or the MLB Draft, Sam Houston baseball bounced back on the diamond.

With Big 12 member Oklahoma State visiting Don Sanders Stadium, the Bearkats welcomed them with a two-run first inning that was the spark in the game.

Behind senior pitcher Coltin Atkinson's strong night and a slew of newcomers at the dish, Sam Houston took game one, 7-2, and set the tone for the young season.

"Opening night is always exciting no matter what," Sam Houston head coach Jay Sirianni said. "The first thing I have to say is the crowd and the fan base was electric tonight. It was good to see alumni and those guys here to support us. I thought Colt did a good job of setting the tone early and offensively we were steady all night."

For the opening game, Sirianni went with his most experienced pitcher on the bump and he didn't disappoint.

The Porter High School graduate grabbed his 34th start for Sam Houston, and it was a strong outing for his 20th career win. To open the game, Atkinson forced a fly out against OSU leadoff hitter Zach Ehrhard but allowed a line drive single to Carson Benge.

While it appeared things might get shaky, he settled in the dirt and fought back. He escaped the inning and then his offense gave him some cushion from the bottom half that let him work.

In the first game, Atkinson went five innings, allowed four hits, gave up two runs (one earned), struck out six and did not issue a walk to the OSU batters.

"That's a pitcher's job. We have to go out for however long we can go and give them the best. I was able to do that today and we set a tone for the weekend," Atkinson said.

As Atkinson had just given up his two runs in the top of the fifth, he escaped a bit of a jam as he left a runner on third. However, he could have gotten out of the inning before an error by Lane Brewster allowed a run to score. But after the frame, Sirianni pulled him at 85 pitches.

With four innings remaining and a two-run lead, junior Logan Hewitt hit the mound to get a four-inning save for the Kats. As Hewitt was a Sunday starter last year, he was rotated to the bullpen towards the end of the season last year. With his ability, he could see himself as a long reliever or work his way back into the starting rotation.

The junior faced 15 OSU batters, gave up two hits, two walks and struck out five in his work.

Another positive is Sirianni did not have to blow through his bullpen to try and salvage a game.

"Hewy did a good job coming out of the pen and filling up the strike zone," Sirianni said. "A lot of new guys were out having hits and it was a good night."

The Bearkat offense brought in a lot of questions this season as they lost six of their top eight hitters. But assistant coach Shane Wedd has an approach for them.

Wedd has them protect the strikeout and force the opposing pitchers to throw strikes rather than give them easy calls. Sam Houston proved that as they struck out six times as a team in 29 at-bats. The Kats added five walks and drilled nine hits into the turf.

A key member to take from that was senior New Mexico transfer Jeffery David. In his first game for Sam Houston, he struck a key two-run double in the bottom of the seventh that put the Kats up by five.

The move was made possible as OK State intentionally walked Walker Janek to put runners on first and second.

"Walker went up to bat and I was expecting him to do it, but we have a next-man-up mentality and I was just trying to push some runs across," David said.

David wasn't the lone member to find some ground. Janek opened the season with a 1-2 performance driving in two runs and scoring two of his own.

Sam Houston freshman Blake Brown went 2-3 in his first start at the collegiate level and was a big part of the surging offense.

Houston transfer Malachi Lott grabbed a hit and Jace Martinez grabbed a hit to round out the newcomers for this Sam Houston lineup.

"It's kind of been this way since the first day of fall. They have been competitive and try not to be something they are not," Sirianni said. "They have bought into coach Wedd and the way he goes about working with those guys. They have bought into controlling the strike zone and they are tough outs."

With one game down, and 55 more to go, the Kats understand there is still a lot more to grow on.

But with one win under their belt, it gives them a springboard for the long season.

"I think we can build off it. Where we are today is not where we are going to be at the end of the year and we have to start building," David said. "We have to put our heads down and try to get another win tomorrow."

Sam Houston will try and get the series win on Saturday as they move to game two of the series against the Cowboys at Don Sanders Stadium. The Kats will likely throw left-hander Marshall Wales and OSU will likely throw righty Brian Holliday. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. at The Don.