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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Baseball

Cougars look to even series with Sam Houston State


Freshman pitcher Brayson Hurdsman (28) aims to improve to 3-1 on the season as he makes his third start of 2017 Tuesday night. Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

The Cougars look to continue their winning ways as they host the Sam Houston State Bearkats at Schroeder Park Tuesday evening. This match-up is the second of three in the Don Sanders Cup, named after a long-time fan of both schools.

In last week’s contest against the Bearkats (26-14, 13-5), the Cougars (27-12, 8-4) fell short in a 5-4 defeat at Constellation Field in Sugarland. They rebounded over the weekend, taking 2-out-of-3 in a series against Tulane. As a result, Houston is tied with the Green Wave for first place in the AAC.

Spearheading the offensive charge is junior shortstop Jake Scheiner, whose .375 batting average is first in the conference. He also leads the team hits (54), RBIs (41) and home runs (12).

Behind Scheiner is speedy junior catcher/infielder Connor Wong, who hits at a .305 clip and leads the team in stolen bases (18) and runs scored (37). Wong also went a perfect 4-for-4 with five RBIs in Sunday’s game, including crushing three homers to bring his season total to eight.

Fellow junior and utility fielder Corey Julks also went 4-for-4 with an RBI in Sunday’s contest.

As a team, the Cougars’ bats have been efficient. While Houston doesn’t necessarily stand out in many categories, they have the lowest amount of strikeouts in the conference (336). Along with that, they rank No. 3 in the American in batting at .271. Individually, Scheiner, Wong and catcher/infielder Joe Davis boast batting averages in the top ten.

On the mound, the rotation has been quite formidable, topping the conference with a 2.50 ERA, holding opposing batters to a .226 batting average, allowing a conference-low 433 hits and giving up the least amount of walks (114). The only glaring weakness the defense has are errors. The Cougars have committed the second-most errors in the conference (70), behind only Memphis (78).

Since sophomore phenom Trey Cumbie moved to Fridays, freshman Brayson Hurdsman has started the midweek games. He has struggled in the new spot, giving up two runs on four hits in five innings against the Bearkats last Tuesday.

Sam Houston State has struggled lately, losing five of their last six, including a three-game sweep in conference play.

Robie Rojas leads the Bearkats with a .345 batting average, while sophomore infielder Andrew Fregia and junior infielder/pitcher Blake Chisolm both hit at a .343 clip.

Fregia leads the Bearkats with 57 hits, while junior outfielder Bryce Johnson leads the team in stolen bases with 19. Collectively, SHSU bats .302 to go with a .425 slugging percentage.

On the hill, Heath Donica (7-1, 1.52 ERA) and Hayden Wesneski (6-2, 3.75 ERA) spearhead the pitching for the Bearkats. As a whole, the Bearkats’ pitching staff possess a 3.64 ERA and have sat down 306 hitters on strikes, while walking only 114.

Houston has been stellar at home, going 17-4 thus far. The Cougars also lead the all-time series versus Sam Houston by the slimmest of margins, with an 81-80 advantage.

First pitch for Tuesday’s matchup is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. After Tuesday’s game, the Cougars will hit the road to South Florida for a three-game series.

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