Sam Houston's softball team has found a new weapon - the long ball - and that weapon has transformed the Bearkats' 2012 season.

Playing a schedule that pit the Bearkats against top-ranked programs like Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Houston, the softball team opened the year with a 1-13 mark.

But, with some hot hands at the plate, the softball squad turned things around.

Since March 7, the team has gone 25-4. The Bearkats roll into the final week of the regular season with a 14-4 Southland Conference record and a shot at a tie for the league title.

Two junior infielders, first baseman Kim Damian of Angleton and third baseman Shelbi Tucker of Montgomery are the leaders of the Kats' big hit parade.

"We were picked to finish eighth in the preseason poll so our goal all year has been to show everyone we are better than that," Damian said. "The coaches kept telling us not to lose faith in ourselves during that rough patch at the start of the season and we didn't."

Damian and Tucker lead the Southland Conference in home runs with 10 apiece. Sam Houston tops the league with 46 home runs as a team. That total is a Bearkat school record, breaking the old mark of 39 set in 2006.

"What's great about this year's team is that we are good on both offense and defense," Tucker said. "When one isn't as great as we need it, the other plays a big role."

Sam Houston winds up the regular season hosting first place Texas State Friday and Saturday (May 4 and 5). The Bobcats have clinched at least a tie for the Southland title, but a sweep by Sam Houston would earn the Kats a co-championship with Texas State.

The next week, May 10-12, the Southland Conference post-season tournament takes place in San Antonio with the league's NCAA championships berth up for grabs. The Bearkats already have clinched at least the number two seed in the event, their highest since 2007.

"When we were 1-13, it was hard to imagine that we would be competing for a share of the title going into the final weekend of the schedule," head coach Bob Brock said. "But the great thing about these kids is they never gave up. In fact, they got mad. We lost a game to a team we shouldn't lose to and our girls responded."

On April 18, in a road doubleheader victory during the Bearkats' amazing 25-4 run, Brock reached a career milestone as he became the 22nd head coach in NCAA Division I softball history to amass 1,000 victories. Prior to the Texas State game Friday, Brock will be honored for his achievement.

"The best thing about our ability to hit the long ball this year is the confidence it brings us offensively," Brock said. "If we're down a run or two, we know we have the ability to get back in the game with one swing."

Tucker and Damian not only lead the Bearkats in home runs but in runs batted in as well. Tucker has totaled 36 RBIs while Damian has 32. Damian leads the team in total hits with 50 and doubles with 10. The pair each are one home run away from tying the school season record of 11 set by Heather Robinson in 1994.

"I basically came up with a different approach and try to get ahead in the count," Damian said. "With coach Brock switching me to bat first, I get a better selection on pitching compared to when I was batting third."

Tucker gives credit to the coaching staff and their hard work.

"The coaches emphasized hitting a little more this year," Tucker said. "Our assistant coach Adrian Gregory spends a lot of time with the hitting and Coach Brock spends a lot of time with the defense."

The next two weeks are big for the Bearkats as they work to earn Sam Houston softball's first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2007.

 "I really like our intensity right now," head softball coach Bob Brock said. "It's going to be an exciting two weeks."