Eyes on the prize

There is nothing like spring at Sam Houston State University; the unusually warm weather, the smell of freshly cut grass and the sounds of softball. The Bearkat softball team is gearing up for the 2003 season, and things are looking promising.

Head coach Bob Brock is excited about his work with the Bearkats this season. This will be his second year with the SHSU softball team. Brock, a graduate of SHSU with a degree in criminal justice, has been coaching since 1980. He holds three national championships from his time spent at Texas A&M, and was a former Women’s Professional Fast-pitch League head coach.

He joined the Sam Houston athletic staff in 2002.

“Hiring Bob Brock as head coach brings instant credibility to our softball program,” said SHSU Athletic Administrator Bobby Williams, after signing Brock last year. “We’re serious about returning our softball program here at Sam Houston State back to its former level of success. Bob Brock brings the knowledge of the game and coaching ability and experience to do just that.”

Brock said his team’s goal is to keep improving this season.

“We are definitely trying to be better than last year,” Brock said. “We want to keep taking steps in turning this program around.”

The team has been ambitious in setting its goals this season, and Brock and his players alike are confident that these goals can most definitely be met.

“One of our goals this year is to make it to the conference tournament,” Brock said. “Anything above and beyond that would be awesome as well.”

Brock said the team is trying to gain better consistency on the field.

“Our main goal, however, is to have less ups and downs in our play. We need to work on maintaining consistency,” Brock said. “We have to have consistency, and when we get it, it will help us to win some of those close games that can go either way.”

“I think that oftentimes one play can make a season, and we just have to get to the point that we are consistent enough that we don’t miss those plays when they come up,” he said.

The team spent last weekend in Florida competing in the South Florida/ Louisville Slugger Tournament. There, the Bearkats got a look at some of the top teams in the nation.

“We had a chance this past weekend to see what the competition is like on the elite college level. I wanted to show the girls that we really are not that far off from being able to compete with these teams,” Brock said. “We got to play Arizona, the No. 1 nationally ranked team, and if we had avoided some errors, we would have been able to stick with them.”

Brock said he has an incredibly talented team this year, outfitted with 14 returning lettermen and an exceptional freshman class. The team has made a lot of improvement in the last year, and particularly in the recent months.

“We have more depth in the pitching staff this year, which is going to be very valuable as the season progresses,” Brock said.

The Bearkats will be without junior outfielder Amber McAvoy this season due to ACL surgery.

McAvoy said she is hopeful about this season, despite her injury. She also has great confidence in the 2003 squad, and is excited to see what they will do throughout the season.

“I think we’re going to do really well. We’re used to Coach Brock now, and that helps a lot,” McAvoy said. “As far as pitching goes, I’m enthusiastic to see how Rachel Atzenhoffer and Aydrian Guajardo do this season, and on the hitting side, I am hopeful about what Melissa Cosgrove has to contribute.”

Another player to watch this year is April Bardwell, junior infielder from Daingerfield, Texas. She earned first team All-Southland Conference honors last season and was the MVP for the 2001 Bearkat squad. Also, keep an eye out for freshmen infielders Brittany Tuck and Sarah Gatlin.

The Bearkats will be hosting Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in a doubleheader Saturday, their first home appearance of the year. The first game will begin at 1 p.m., with the second game following at 3 p.m.

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