The talent pool for Texas high school players make it a conducive environment for as many as 10 Texas teams to have significant success on the baseball diamond (see 2017 NCAA tournament pool). Sam Houston State has a knack for finding great talent via transfers, JUCOs, and among high schoolers. While it might feel like deja vu for Sam Houston State in 2017, they played Arizona to open to 2016 Regionals as well, this Bearkats team is plenty battle tested.
Sam Houston State consistently placed themselves against top tier teams such as Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas, Louisiana-Lafayette, Pepperdine, Rice, and other notable conference foes. They’re 5-0 at neutral sites, and a respectable 10-11 on the road. This makes them more than capable of entering a Big 12 ballpark and knocking off some major P5 schools.
Their biggest strength is in their team depth as hitters, the team sports a fantastic .307 batting average and seven regulars that hit well over .300. This paired with a propensity to steal bases, and you’ll be exerting some major pressure on the defense. Expect Blake Chisolm to get his hits in Lubbock, and beware of Bryce Johnson who is likely to give catchers cause for concern every time he gets on-base. We see distributed home run numbers across the board, but this isn’t the type of team to win via the long ball. Overall, there’s plenty of balance from the Sam Houston State offense.
One the mound, Sam Houston State poses one legitmate ace in Heath Donica. Donica averages seven innings per starter, one strikeout per inning, and a sparking 9-1 record along with a ludicrous 1.69 ERA. Regardless of conference, that’s spectacular for any pitcher. I speculate he’s the type of player who will be drafted at the end of the season and could make a run in the Minor Leagues. Thankfully, we won’t see someone of Donica’s status in a potential game two matchup - but we could see Hayden Wesneski. While not as spectacular as their ace, Wesneski pitches to contact, also won nine games, and isn’t giving out many free passes on the bases. These starters paired with a bullpen that has plenty of depth, lead by closer Nick Mikolajchak who saved 10 games as a Freshman.
I’m sure you read the above notes and you’re likely sweating this Bearkats team a lot. Well, our Red Raiders happened to win all three contests against SHSU in 2016, headlined by a 20-3 drubbing. This isn’t to take away from Sam Houston State in 2017, but it’s of note that we’ve taken care of business against this team recently. Expect to see Steven Gingery take the bump should this content manifest itself, and I think we all like our odds when the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year is throwing. There’s no reason to believe we can’t handle anything they throw at us. (Pun intended)