It is that time. The diamond sports are back. College softball is back.
That means that Sam Houston Bearkat softball is back.
There are a lot of returns this season, but also a lot of new faces.
Seven to be exact.
But there is a lot more that goes into a new season.
To understand what can happen this season for Bearkat softball, here is what has led up to this season.
Goodbye Last Season, Hello This Season
Last season was not what Sam Houston wanted. 15 wins in any season no matter what isn’t going to lead to success most of the time.
The Bearkats were in the Western Athletic Conference Softball Tournament at the end of the day. Taking place at the Bearkat Softball Complex, it was a chance to forget about the woes in the regular season.
A chance at redemption.
After coming back from a 2-run deficit against the New Mexico State Aggies, the Bearkats led 4-3 at the top of the seventh inning with a ticket to the next round.
With one out, the Aggies took the lead with one swing of the bat when Aggie third baseman Ramsay Lopez hit a 2-run homerun to center field to make it 5-4 New Mexico State.
The Bearkat bats were quieted in the bottom of the seventh and that was the season for them.
The Grand Canyon Lady Antelopes would eventually be the WAC Tournament champions.
It is not how you want to end the season.
This season, however, is different. The freshman from last year are more experienced. Sophomores like outfielder Brodie Quinlan, two-way player, and the number 13 two-way player in the country, Brailey Wasik and infielder Elia Hebel were bright spots last season.
This will be a growing season.
The New Faces in Town
There are seven new players coming to Bearkat softball this season.
First off the new two freshman coming straight out of high school.
Freshman infielder Morgan Holliday is an exciting prospect for the Bearkats due to her stellar high school career at Grandview High School.
She holds the school records for most career stolen bases with 116 and home runs with 42.
An even more impressive mark is that she holds the Dallas-Fort Worth are record for most homers in a single season with 21.
To end her high school career she was named District Most Valuable Player and TWSA first team all-state.
A player that can hit for power and run the bases will sit well for Valis and his team.
Another decorated high school player coming in is infielder Kylie Bishop. She also got first team all state and district MVPs to her name.
Possibly her biggest accomplishment was winning the 2022 State Championship at Liberty High School where she won the game’s MVP award.
For the transfer portal, Valis ramped up on the pitching which was a problem last year.
Graduate transfer pitcher from Tomball, Texas, Emma Guindon was the biggest acquisition of the offseason.
From Houston Christian University to New Mexico before coming to Sam Houston Guindon over her career has been a stellar pitcher.
She has amassed a career earned-run-average of 3.75. Last season was a good one for her as she threw 148.2 innings with an ERA of 3.53 an 109 strikeouts.
The Bearkats then turned around and added senior transfer pitcher Daryn Grams.
Grams comes from San Jacinto Community College and made a name for herself in the junior college softball spectrum.
In 26 games the Houston native pitched 93.1 innings in 2022. She had 126 strikeouts which is a strikeouts per nine innings rate of 12.2 K/9.
On top of that she had a 1.26 ERA, which was seventh best in the NJCAA.
She was a vital part of San Jacinto as she helped lead them to the NJCAA Softball World Series last year.
The experience and maturity will be vital for a team that is still quite young.
The other three transfer players that should not go unnoticed are outfielder Chandler Talbot, outfielder Haley Mountain, and catcher Julia Herzinger.
Things to Watch
The schedule set for this year has some good ones that are double circled on the calender.
The Bearkats have a home-and-home series against NCAA Softball World Series finalists Texas Longhorns.
In fact Sam Houston faces Texas right before they start conference play on Mar. 14. The other game is set for May 3, just before the Bearkats’s final Western Athletic Conference series.
Sam Houston also have two games each in the Baylor Tournament against the Baylor Bears and Texas A&M Aggies when the event takes place from March 4-5.
In 2022 Sam Houston was 7-23 in non-conference play.
While the record can possibly be better, it is good for the Bearkats to get experience against these Power 5 teams as they head into conference.
This will also be a goodtime for Valis and his staff to figure out a pitching rotation and roles for his position players.
There are a lot of things that need to be kept an eye on.
A pitcher that will be detrimental to the success will be junior pitcher Mika Vento.
Vento is coming off a sophomore season where she pitched 145.2 innings with a 3.32 ERA.
However, the 2022 season ended on a bad note as she was the pitcher that gave up the go-ahead homer against New Mexico State in the WAC tournament that knocked off Sam Houston.
Word is though is that she worked hard this offseason. In the weight room and in the circle. It is going to be something see especially for someone that is coming in with a lot of motivation.
On the hitting side, Quinlan, Wasik and Hebel will be key.
But no matter what lens is looked through, everyone has to do their part.
This season of Bearkat softball is going to be one to watch with what was done in the offseason.
While it is up in the air on whether it will end with a conference championship or not, one thing is certain.
The 2023 Bearkat softball season will be a fun one to watch.