EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – On Monday, the Sam Houston baseball team found out they would be playing in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional.

This comes after the Bearkats won the 2023 WAC Baseball Tournament on Saturday. Sam Houston avoided elimination three times before they forced a winner-take-all game against Utah Valley on Saturday. The Bearkats would dominate in the championship game as they grabbed a 21-1 win over the Wolverines. The Bearkats won the conference tournament trophy and earned a ticket to the NCAA regionals for the first time since 2017.

El Paso’s Carlos Contreras played a key role in both the Bearkat’s wins. In Game 1 of the championship series, Contreras went 2-4, hit two doubles and brought in a pair of runs. In Game 2, Contreras went 3-5, hit two doubles again, and drove in four runs.

“I just tried to stop doing too much and just do my job,” Contreras said. “I think our offense is so good, all you really have to do is just get on base and I think that kind of just took the stress away.”

It was a performance that reminded everyone watching why Contreras was one of the best players in the nation last year.

In 2022, the 5’10 outfielder hit .400 with a .713 slugging percentage and .468 on-base percentage. He also finished season second in the nation with 89 total RBI and led the country with an average of 1.59 RBI per game. His stellar numbers led him to earning the 2022 WAC Player of the Year Award.  The El Paso native was also tabbed as a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy.

Both of those awards were won by a Contreras’ good friend: Ivan Melendez.

“I was so happy for him. If anybody’s going to take it, you want it to be your boy,” Contreras said. ” He was always such a good player growing up and we kind of like went our separate ways, like going to different schools and stuff, and then we come back and we’re playing against each other, seeing each other do well. It was just a crazy feeling to see him do good and win that award and show that there’s a lot of talent coming out of El Paso.”

Even though Contreras didn’t come out with the Golden Spikes Award or Dick Howser Trophy, he was proud of the stellar year he put together on the diamond in 2022.

“I was playing really well and then I would get a lot of lucky breaks too,” Contreras said. “I was just thankful to have a year like that. It was really cool to just experience that. I felt like a lot of my hard work paid off last year. It was a really good feeling.”

Another great experience is in store for Contreras.

He will play in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional and has a chance to play his way to the College World Series.

“It is honestly a dream being able to be part of it and play the best teams,” Contreras said. We feel like we are good enough to be there. We want to be here and I think it is cool being able to play the best teams because you get the best environments, so yeah, it is like a dream come true.”

Contreras and Sam Houston will play Oregon State on Friday at Alex Box Stadium. at 6:00 p.m. MT. The game will stream on ESPN+. Top-seeded LSU, which is the No. 5 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, and Tulane are the two other team’s in the Baton Rouge Regional.