Bearkats win opening series against Oklahoma State

Feb. 19—HUNTSVILLE — Baseball season finally arrived and for Sam Houston fans, it was a sweet return to Don Sanders Stadium.

The Bearkats took on Oklahoma State University in a weekend series where the Kats took the series with Friday and Saturday wins. While Sunday didn't go as planned, Sam Houston still started hot to open the season.

Sam Houston took the Friday game, 7-2, the Saturday game, 2-1, and dropped the Sunday game 2-19.

"You have to look at the big picture. Over the weekend we won two out of three against a really good team," Sam Houston coach Jay Sirianni said. "Sunday got out of hand, but we were able to get guys in the game that we needed to know what they were. We saw some good things."

Things got out of hand early in the game for senior righty Miles Hellums. After retiring 6 of the first 10 batters he faced, a bloop hit opened the game up for OSU with an early 1-0 lead.

Once the third inning opened up, things exploded for the Cowboys against Hellums. OSU took him for four straight singles to score another and keep the bases loaded. Hellums got it to two outs and an opportunity to get out of the inning, but ball placement kept things going.

With a new infield, Sam Houston saw a handful of balls get through the infield on contact before Sirianni called on Michael Watson out of the pen. In Hellum's first start of the season, he was charged with eight runs on eight hits with no strikeouts to his name on 60 pitches.

"If Miles doesn't have his changeup going then we have an issue. The balls weren't hit real hard but found holes. Ultimately, we have to make a pitch to get out of the inning," Sirianni said.

Overall on the weekend, Bearkat starters played a key role. Senior Coltin Atkinson started game one and pitched five innings of four-hit baseball and kept the Pokes at one run. On Saturday, the 'Kats trotted out Marshall Wales who had another strong outing. He pitched four innings of two-hit baseball and allowed no earned runs.

But the major key to these early games is seeing the backend of the bullpen.

Sunday was the main opportunity to see it as Sam Houston was down by 19 after the fifth inning. Gunnar Brown, Brock Rod and Ryan Peterson all make their Bearkat debut against OSU and have great opportunities.

The trio combined for 4.1 innings on the bump with Brown giving up four hits and three runs before Rod and Peterson closed the game.

"We've been excited about those three guys since we got them," Sirianni said. "They went out and did a good job. They will move up an opportunity. Big picture, I was satisfied with how they threw the ball today."

Saturday, Sirianni got to see Texas A&M transfer Wyatt Tucker and last year's standing Chandler David remain shut down the Cowboys in game two.

The offense outside of the Friday game saw some spurts but throughout the Bearkats lacked a huge performance.

Seven of the Bearkats' eight qualified hitters each have at least two base hits with senior infielder Easton Loyd charging along with four at the top. At the plate, the key thing that happened for Sam Houston was hitting late in games. Despite being down 19, Sam Houston rallied for three singles that scored its first run of the game before Loyd added another single for the second run on Sunday.

On Saturday, the Kats had another set of clutch-hitting after sophomore Caleb Cotton drew a walk and stole second. With pressure on, OSU elected to intentionally walk Lane Brewster and Jace Martinez to load the bases.

Sophomore Jake Tatom hit a grounder to first that was enough to score Cotton and walk off the Pokes for the series win.

"You have to tip your hat to their guy. He established the fastball to the glove side, which was pretty firm," Sirianni said. "A lot of that is a credit to those guys. I thought as the game went along, we tried to put some quality at-bats together. It's something to build off of."

With the season being extremely young, Sirianni and Company have an idea of what some guys can do. But there are still 53 games to go before the end of the regular season and the Conference Tournament starts.

The Kats will keep things going with a road trip to Houston to take on the Rice Owls at Reckling Park. The Owls come into the game still looking for their first win as Notre Dame completed the sweep over the weekend.

"In February you need to play as much, and as long, as possible," Sirianni said. "We are going to take every opportunity to get better. Rice will be a good team and it will be competitive."

First pitch between Sam Houston and Rice is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Reckling Park.