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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Scout Take: Sam Houston State

Britt Smith        
Photo: Hayden Wesneski (Brian Blalock)

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Sam Houston State Bearkats

What Happened: Sam Houston State, the only non Power 5 school in the Frisco College Classic, stood toe-to-toe with the big boys and displayed the competitive character to overcome a seven-run deficit to walk-off Nebraska in Game 2 of the weather-shortened event. With a mix of veteran starting pitching and an aggressive in-your-face style of offense, the Bearkats play an extremely unified brand of team baseball. After dropping Game 1 to Mississippi State, by having the tying run picked off with their hottest hitter at the plate, Darien Sims redeemed himself from his baserunning mistake by delivering the walk-off RBI single against Nebraska.

Carrying Tool: Balance. Sam Houston will not enter the postseason with the biggest names, highest draft prospects or the highest ranking in the country, but they will have balance. The pitching staff will compete in the strike zone, the offense will create runs one way or another, and more importantly, they will play together. Superstars are not the headliners for the Bearkats but rather a collection of hard-nosed competitors that are fun to watch play. Showing the mental toughness to overcome some self-inflicted mistakes, Sam Houston rallied for a six-run bottom of the fifth in Game 2, after allowing eight runs in the top half of the inning to the Cornhuskers. It would have been easy to shut it down, especially in the wet and cold conditions, but there was not a sense of panic, frustration or gloom. The Bearkat lineup simply started stringing together quality at-bats, and a few big hits later, they were back in the ball game.

Concerns: Sam Houston State is not trying to make a name for themselves any longer. After a trip to the Super Regionals in 2017 and a disappointing finish to the 2018 season in the Southland Conference Tournament, the current squad is a mix of experienced pitching and aggressive offense. There are two concerns with this club, defensive consistency and depth of the pitching staff. When the pitching staff is right, the defense will have plenty of opportunities around the infield. Primarily a staff of sinker/slider arms in the rotation, there will be a premium placed on the defense around the infield. Riley McKnight is special defensively at second base, but the all-freshman left side of Diego Davila (shortstop) and converted outfielder Colton Cowser (third base) will have to play well.

Best Player on the Field: Colton Cowser, the freshman third baseman for the Bearkats was the most consistent and productive hitter during the event. Hitting in the three-hole, the lefthanded swinger barreled balls with a crisp and short swing, to all parts of the field, including a few loud outs directly at defenders. Finishing 3-for-7 in the event with a double, home run, four runs scored and a pair of RBI, Cowser displayed a level of comfort at the plate beyond his years. An outfielder in high school, he has the physical tools to make the switch to third base but learning the hot corner on the fly at the college level will be an adjustment. The aforementioned Riley McKnight also showed well during the event, especially on the defensive side of the ball but also at the plate with a three-hit performance in the finale against Nebraska.

Fearless Forecast: Regional. Sam Houston will make the postseason after falling short in 2018 and will be an extremely tough out, no matter where they are shipped off to. There are members of this team that were a part of the Bearkat team that advanced to the Supers in 2017, by winning on the road in the Lubbock Regional. There is a sense of purpose watching this year’s club and a togetherness that can be felt in observing how they interact with each other. Head coach Matt Deggs has a quiet confidence level in his group and you get the sense that he knows something special is brewing in Huntsville this season.


Players covered: Colton Cowser, Hayden Wesneski, Nick Mikolajchak.


Colton Cowser
Standing 6-foot-3, 190-pounds, Colton Cowser hits in the third spot in the Sam Houston State lineup. On a team that shows fairly high offensive potential, he shows a level of confidence and maturity beyond his years. From an upright and open stance, Cowser has the ability to barrel the ball consistently to all parts of the field with aggressive but controlled swings early in counts. With two strikes, he also shows the ability to handle the bat and spoil pitches until he finds one he can work with. The only home run of the Frisco College Classic came off the bat of Cowser, who leaned on a ball after fouling off three pitches with two strikes. On a miserably cold afternoon and a thick mist setting in, he turned on a pitch on the inner-third and drove it out of the park with a fluid and easy swing. The no-doubt home run completed a comeback from a seven-run deficit and put Sam Houston State back on top of Nebraska.



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