HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- Sam Houston opens its 35th softball season Wednesday at 5 p.m. when the Bearkats welcome Texas A&M to the softball complex.
Finalists in the Southland Conference post-season tournament each of the past two years, the Bearkats are forecast to be one of the top teams in the league race again this year.
Sam Houston head coach Bob Brock returns 12 letter-winners including five starters in the field and three starting pitchers.
“We’re excited to get started,” Brock said. “We return some top hitters and we’re very excited about our pitching staff. We have some young players who will step in and contribute as well.”
Top hitters returning for the Bearkats include infielder Tiffany Castillo (.380), second baseman Alyssa Coggins (.354), designated player Hillary Adams (.339) and outfielder Jessica Slater (.328).
Shortstop Sarah Allison, an all-conference selection two seasons ago but redshirted last season, also returns.
Sam Houston State boasts a veteran staff in the circle. Starting pitchers returning include Shelby Lancaster (15-8, 2.98 ERA), Meme Quinn (11-8, 3.28 ERA) and Haley Baros (11-8, 3.43 ERA).
Sam Houston must replace 2013 player and hitter of the year outfielder Tori Benavidez along with all-league selections catcher Ashley Isbell, third baseman Shelby Tucker and first baseman Kim Damian.
A solid group of freshman recruits plus several talented letterwinners, who played in backup roles last season, also enhance the Bearkats' chances of competing for the title.
Texas A&M started the season last weekend with a 5-0 performance at a tournament at Cal State-Santa Barbara. The Aggies out-scored their five foes 48 to 14 on the way to hoisting the championship trophy.
Following the Aggie game Wednesday, the SHSU softball team will hit the road for 14 games at three tournaments (in Houston, Denton and Lubbock) before returning to the Bearkat Softball Complex on Saturday, March 8, to open Southland Conference play against the defending league regular season champion McNeese State Cowgirls.