The 2019 Sam Houston State softball season is nearly upon us, with first-year head coach Garrett Valis’ team to open up the season on Feb. 9 in Houston vs Kentucky.
This is the third of a three-part preview, position by position, of this year’s squad, leading up to the 2019 opener.
Newcomers: Alexandra Diaz
HUNTSVILLE – It’s not every year that a team has the luxury of bringing back the experience in a position group that the Sam Houston State Bearkats have with its outfield corps for the upcoming 2019 season.
Junior Megan McDonald has started all 108 games for the Bearkats in center field in each of the past two seasons. Add in Sheridan Fisher who started 55 games a year ago as a freshman, and the duo of Kayte Martinez and Karlee Canada who had 41 starts between them, and the Kats like what they have to work with this year in the outfield.
McDonald earned honorable mention all-Southland Conference honors as a sophomore a year ago and returns as one of the top outfielders in the league this year. Valis considers her one of the best defenders in the league, and she has been since her arrival, but her offense also took a significant jump from her freshman to sophomore seasons.
She hit a solid .264 as a freshman in 2017, but led the team a year ago with a .310 mark while her 53 hits were also a team best.
“Megan is someone that has been underappreciated from an outfield standpoint in our conference,” Valis said. “In my opinion she is a first team all-conference kid. She is a great leader out there and she is someone who has bounced around in the lineup. I expect her to start of us in the leadoff spot just based off the experience she has. She is one of those kids that I really trust and I don’t really call a whole lot for her I just let her run her offense for herself.”
Meanwhile, Fisher is another top-of-the order option for Valis coming off a freshman season that saw her hit .265 with six doubles in her 55 games in the outfield. She made an impact in the outfield a year ago and looks to be in position to make a jump similar to McDonald’s in 2019.
“Sheridon is a kid that pretty much played all year last year and led off a lot for us,” Valis said. “She can hit early in the lineup and I anticipate her doing that as well. She is a great outfielder from a defensive standpoint and I would say takes a hit away per game at least. Her experience that she got last year was pretty invaluable.”
The Kats also got a lot of work out of both Canada and Martinez last season due to the injury to Goetz, but should see a similar workload for each this year.
“Last year Karlee and Kayte bounced around with the left field position with Ashley out last year and have really been doing that this year too,” Valis said. “Karlee is going to hit with for more power, while Kayte is going to slap a little bit more and bunt quite a bit. She is probably the best bunter on the team and she has a way of finding herself on base so that adds some value there.”
Canada made 26 starts last season in the outfield and drove in three runs, while Martinez made 15 starts of her own but saw a lot of her time as a late-inning defensive replacement or on the bases and finished with 13 runs scored and five steals.
The Kats should also add some depth to the outfield corps with the addition later in the year of freshman Alexandra Diaz, while Goetz is an option out there after playing 49 games in the outfield in 2017, but is more likely to see the majority of her time on the infield.
Valis will also have the option of using Dunn, a true freshman, when she is not being utilized as a pitcher. A left-handed hitter with speed, Dunn was a do-it-all at Cuero High School and brings speed and headiness to the diamond.
“If Regan is not in the game from a pitching standpoint she is a kid that you can see starting in the outfield, hitting in the leadoff spot or coming off the bench to pinch run for someone,” Valis said. “She is as fast as anyone we have on the team, is a great athlete, and has really adapted well to the strength program we have here. I expect Reagan to help in a lot of ways and she is used to not coming off the field so that will be a different challenge for her at this level.”