Sam Houston State vs. Incarnate Word.

The Cardinals from Incarnate Word made the three-hour trip from San Antonio to Huntsville to play a three game set against the Sam Houston State Bearkats this weekend. Due to impending weather issues in the area, the teams were forced to play a double-header on Friday, and the finale on Saturday.

SHSU was in the driver’s seat all weekend with strong pitching and a balanced hitting attack from everyone in the lineup. The first game ended in a 9-2 win for the Kats behind the pitching of senior LHP Andrew Godail. Godail’s fastball sat in the mid to high 80’s with an off-speed pitch in the low 80’s. SHSU Head Coach Matt Deggs spoke of his ace’s outing after the game, “He battled for us and gave us a chance,” Deggs did say after the game that Godail had hurt his index finger on his pitching hand during the game but that he is okay. Alex Bisacca came in the seventh inning and got a rare three inning save for the Bearkats in-game 1.

Geno Encina took the mound in-game 1 for Incarnate Word on Friday and, like his counterpart, sat mid to high 80’s on the fastball with movement. He got into some trouble in the 5th inning where he gave up three runs, but he held SHSU off-balance for much of the first half of the game. When he was able to hit the corners, he was hard to hit. In the fifth, he left a few pitches up and got behind in counts, and that’s SHSU took advantage of that.

In the late innings of game 1, the Kats were able to jump on the Cardinal bullpen, as they scored four runs in the eighth inning to break the game wide open. After the game, SHSU senior outfielder Colt Atwood spoke on the team’s game plan at the plate, “Their bullpen has really been their downfall. Their starting pitching has really been good all year, so it’s big to jump on them early and get his pitch count up.” When asked about his approach at the plate Atwood said, “Really, just trying to get the fastball down, and see the breaker up. So if we can do that and keep our hands inside, we can hit to the middle of the field. Not chasing a pitcher’s pitch is huge.”

The SHSU leaders at the plate in game one were junior infielder Zach Smith, who went two for four with three runs scored and 3 RBI, and Ryan Brinley, who had two hits in four at-bats with a run scored and an RBI. Miles Manning also had two hits in four at-bats with one run scored and an RBI.

Game two looked like it would be over quickly, as SHSU jumped out to a five run lead in the first three innings, but Incarnate Word stormed right back into it with a five run fourth inning to tie it back up. SHSU was able to score two runs in the bottom half of the eighth to take control and seal a series victory in-game two.

The top three hitters in the lineup went 7-15 in the nightcap for the Bearkats, and Coach Deggs spoke on them after the game, “Anytime you get Hayden Simerly and Colt (Atwood) back-to-back and they’re swinging the bat, that’s the straw that stirs the drink right there. And to have Colt come out and have three knocks right there is huge.”

Logan Boyd started game two for SHSU and out really well. Though he gave up five runs in the fourth, he came back in the fifth and sixth, and battled for 5.2 innings and 120 total pitches. “Boyd had really good stuff. He had a lively fastball that was 92-93 and the breaking ball was good and change-up was good. He had really good stuff.”

Deggs also spoke about that long fourth inning, “If you think back to the way the fourth inning started; it’s a ground ball to second and we throw it away, then there’s a fly ball that’s just out of Colt’s reach. I had him shaded to the oppo side a little too far. The key to that whole inning is that we compound it with a walk to the next batter. Now you’ve got bases loaded and no outs.”

The final game of the weekend was all Bearkats from start to finish, as SHSU starter Sam Odom went the distance allowing only four hits and recording 10 strikeouts. His fastball was 88-91 for much of the game with a biting slider that I clocked anywhere from 79-82. As one would expect, he lost a little velocity when I clocked him again in the 8th, but for a frame of reference, his fastball was still mid 80’s and the off-speed was 74-77. After the game, Matt Deggs spoke of his Sunday starter, “Sam really stepped up huge for us. It was really good to see him settle back in to that Sunday spot. Today he finished it…He had fastball command and anytime you have fastball command, you’re going to have a good outing.

The offense was stifled a bit early on for the Kats, but they were able to strike for two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings, and one more in the sixth to earn the series sweep. Colt Atwood went 1/3 at the plate with a run scored, and Bryce Johnson added two hits with a run scored and two RBI as well.

Incarnate Word junior starter Garret Cooper was in the low to mid 80’s with good fastball bite throughout the day and a curveball that was in the high 60’s and low 70’s with movement. Johnson spoke after the game about Cooper keeping the team off-balance early and how they changed the approach at the plate in the middle innings, “He had a great change-up and he was consistent down low with it. We scooted up in the box and it paid off for us.”

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