Last season proved to be a tough fight for the Sam Houston State softball program, but regardless of their struggles, the Bearkats are determined to make the 2017 season one for the books.
“I am really excited about this years’ team,” head coach Bob Brock said. “We are young, we have a freshmen that will be impact players and we also have last year’s team that will be returning.”
The Bearkats have welcomed five freshmen and nine letter winner returners this season. Among the new recruits include: infielder and pitcher Casey Kauder, infielder Tiffany Thompson, catcher and infielder Megan Crosby, outfielder Megan McDonald, catcher and infielder Bailey White and infielder Kaitlynn Dawson.
“We have been struggling a little bit at short stop the last couples of years,” Brock said. “So I am expecting a lot from Thompson. I watched her play last fall and she is just outstanding. All of our incoming freshmen are outstanding players.”
The team will be seeing the return of some remarkable talent this season. On the mound, the teams top three pitchers; senior Taylor Atkinson, junior Jordan Franks and sophomore Lindsey McLeod will be making a return.
Sophomores Codi Carpenter and Emily Bounds as well as senior Hannah Marino will be returning to the infield.
Senior and third baseman Tori Koerselman will also be making a return to the team after a two-year leave due to multiple knee surgeries.
Koerselman is a local product that Brock expects to be the lead off batter this season.
“I think we are going to compete really well this season,” Koerselman said. “I am really excited to be back on the team. I definitely missed it in the two seasons I was out and now I’m back and in a lot better shape so it’s exciting to put all that back on the field.”
The Bearkats are entering the season ranked eighth in the SLC Coaches’ poll, a rating Brock said he and the team do not agree with. In 2016, the team was ranked tenth.
Last season, the Bearkats qualified for the Southland Conference Tournament on a small margin. Midway through the season the team stood 7-21 and had a 2-7 mark in the SLC, but managed an outstanding turn around by winning 11 of their final 18 conference games.
While competing in the elimination round, the team held a 10-5 lead over Stephen F. Austin and was a single out away from advancing to the next round, but unfortunately SFA got on a roll and managed to score 11 unanswered points to send the Bearkats packing with a 14-11 loss.
“I was not happy with how that game went,” Brock said. “More than anything the team learned that no matter what the lead is we can not get comfortable and we can not stop fighting.”
Regardless of how the 2016 season ended, the Bearkats saw many accomplishments. 15 players were named to the 2015-16 SLC Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll and three were honored as 2016 All-SLC team members.
In December, Brock was inducted into the National Fastpich Coaches Association Hall of Honors for having accumulated 1,114 total career victories during his 33 seasons of coaching at SHSU, Texas A&M and Baylor.
The Bearkats will open their 2017 season at the University of Louisiana Monroe from Feb. 10 to 12. While in Monroe, LA, SHSU will face off against ULM and Prairie View A&M on Friday, Northwestern and Grambling State on Saturday and Southern Illinois- Edwardsville on Sunday.
“The team is excited to play this weekend and show people that we are going to be a lot better than we are ranked to be,” Koerselman said.