Kats win SLC

The Sam Houston State Bearkats celebrate on the field Friday after freshman Colton Cowser delivered a walk-off single to beat Northwestern State and clinch a share of the Southland Conference title

Over the course of his freshman season, Sam Houston State outfielder Colton Cowser has established himself as one of the top contenders for Southland Conference Player of the Year.

During Friday's regular season finale against Northwestern State, with the opportunity to secure a league title in front of him, he provided a reminder why.

Cowser stepped to the plate with with one out in the bottom of the ninth and senior Riley McKnight at third base representing the winning run. Cowser shot a two-strike single down the left field line, lifting the Bearkats to a 5-4 walk-off victory, securing a Southland championship and sending his team sprinting from the dugout in jubilation.

"Just do it for the seniors," said Cowser of his mindset during the final at-bat. "Those guys have put their hearts into this program for the past four years, and I would kind of say they're the founding fathers of what this program is today. They've just been grinding for these past four years.

"To go out there and have them welcome me, let me be me on the field and teach me every single game this year, it means the world to me. ... I'm very happy that I could do this for them."

Cowser delivered the late-inning heroics and went 2 of 4 with a run, a walk and an RBI, but he was hardly the Bearkats’ only key contributor at the plate. 

The game-winning play was set up when senior catcher Jordan Cannon — who went 2 of 5 with two RBIs and a run scored — sent McKnight from first to third on a single into the left field corner. Seniors Clayton Harp and Hunter Hearn also added two hits each for the Kats, with Harp scoring a run and Hearn driving in two.

“We’ve grinded all year long,” Cannon said. “These dudes have showed up every day. Whether it’s been good or bad, it doesn’t matter. These guys are the same guys.”

Senior lefthander Seth Ballew got the start on the mound for Sam Houston State and provided 5 ⅔ productive innings, giving up just four hits and one earned run.

Cody Wolf and Steven Beard entered the game from the bullpen with the Kats leading 3-1 and proceeded to hold Northwestern State hitless for the next two innings. Cannon then blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh to stretch Sam Houston State’s lead to three, but a three-run eighth for the Demons off Cole Wesneski tied the game up.

Wesneski buckled down in a scoreless ninth, however, sending the offense to the plate to secure the championship in the final inning.

“They’re a pretty thick group,” Sam Houston State head coach Matt Deggs said. “It speaks to the power of a team, and it speaks to being a part of something bigger than yourself. … That was a total pack effort right there.

“A lot of people doubted us. A lot of people jumped off probably, but these boys never quit. We have a hardcore group of supporters and fans that just propelled us to the finish line. It’s as sweet as any championship that I’ve ever been a part of.”

Next up for Sam Houston State is the Southland Conference Tournament at Constellation Field in Sugar Land. The top-seeded Bearkats are scheduled to begin play against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Wednesday at 4 p.m.