With the coming of the spring season, that of course means it is time to hit the diamond for the softball season. The Sam Houston University Bearkats softball team looks to begin their season this coming weekend with their annual Bearkat Classic tournament.
The tournament will also kick off the Bearkats first season in the Western Athletic Conference. However, the change of the conference does not mean the same for the softball program as the scheduling works together with the conference system.
“That will be a little different that we play somebody six times,” head coach Garrett Valis said. “It’s really going to be about who can make the right adjustments, who’s healthy at those times when you play those games and trying to win a six-game series rather than a three-game series.”
With the move to the WAC, the Bearkats will play in the Southwest division against all former Southland Conference opponents in Stephen F. Austin University, Abilene Christian University and Lamar University. The only new conference opponents the Bearkats will see in their division will be Tarleton State University.
Going into the season, the Bearkats are picked to finish second in their division behind rival school SFA.
They will begin their conference season at home March 4 against the Lamar University Cardinals in their first three-game series. The Bearkats will play No. 9 ranked University of Texas just two days before that.
Last season, the Bearkats finished seventh in the SLC a game above .500 at 14-13. With the season about to start, the Bearkats have been preparing for the new season ahead.
“Things have been going really well,” Valis said. “We are deep at just about every position more so than I think we have been in the past and so it is just a lot of kids on different days doing really positive things. If one kid has a rough day, it seems like the next day they bounce back right away.”
The Bearkats face a number of highly ranked opponents throughout the season including the University of Oklahoma, which is currently ranked the No. 1 in the country. Head coach Valis spoke on the opponents they will be facing this upcoming season.
“We treat it as if we are playing any other game,” Valis said. “Wichita State comes into town opening weekend and they come in at 25. We know that they have a very good offense but at the end of the day we are trying to get better. We do not want to play games that just pad wins into our schedule. We want to play games that help us be the best that we can be.”
Sam Houston also has extra motivation in this season as they will be hosting the WAC post season tournament May 12-15.
“I really appreciate the athletic department stepping up and putting out the bid to host and then everything they are going to do in preparation for that,” Valis said. “Being at home helps out a lot. You get to sleep in your own bed, you get to be in familiar territory and obviously you get the home crowd.”
The Bearkats will officially open their season Friday, Feb. 11 at 4:45 p.m. to take on the University of South Dakota.
“I think this team is going to be fun to watch,” Valis said.