For a fan attending a Bearkat softball game any time the past four seasons, one thing has been certain – No. 12 Alyssa Coggins would be standing at second base for the Orange and White.
The senior from Sealy, Texas, has started at second base every game for Sam Houston State University the past four years.
When the Kats take the field at the Softball Complex this weekend for their final regular season Southland series of 2014, Coggins will be appearing in her 214th game.
The second baseman stands second in SHSU career fielding assists and seventh in career at bats during her four years.
“Alyssa is just amazing,” Sam Houston head coach Bob Brock said. “Last fall, during a practice game, I substituted for her late in the contest. When she came out, she laughed and told me that’s the first time in four years I’ve taken her out of a game. She's an outstanding player and a great individual.”
Coggins came to Sam Houston after a successful career at Sealy High School where she earned All-District honors four years in a row and was team “Most Valuable Player” her sophomore through senior years.
“I played both shortstop and second base in high school,” Coggins said. “But when I came here, Hailey Wiginton (now a volunteer coach for the Kats) was an all-conference shortstop. So they put me at second base. I’ve been there ever since.”
Coggins is one of five seniors who have played on the past four Bearkat softball clubs.
Along with pitcher Shelby Lancaster, right fielder Cecilia Castillo and outfielders Amy Pelton and Kaleb Everitt, the quintet have helped led the Bearkats to top three league finishes and the finals of the Southland Conference tournament each of the past two seasons.
“I’ve been very lucky and blessed,” Coggins said. “More runners slide into second base than anywhere and I don’t shy away from contact. I really like playing second base because you are more involved.”
Coggins and her teammates are close to achieving their top goal. With a successful series this weekend against rival Stephen F. Austin, the team will assure itself its third consecutive berth in the Southland post-season tournament in Hammond, La., May 8-10.
The tournament winner earns the Southland’s automatic berth in the NCAA championships. Sam Houston reached the tournament championship in both 2012 and 2013 but lost in the finals.
“Our freshman year, no one really took charge and we didn’t make the tournament,” Coggins said. “But since then, we’ve been more focused on improving our hitting. We’ve come together more as a team each year. Right now, we’re keeping it simple and focusing on just getting there. We know we’re a good tournament team once we’re in.”
Coggins earned both All-Southland Conference and Southland All-Tournament honors as a junior in 2013. During last May's Southland tournament, she hit .542 and posted a .997 fielding average in SHSU’s sevengames as the Bearkats became only the fifth team to fight their way through the elimination bracket and force the “as necessary” game.
The senior has displayed outstanding defensive skills at second base and has continued to improve as a hitter in her four years at Sam Houston.
Sam Houston assistant Adrian Gregory, whose hitting coaching has resulted in school team season records for batting average, total hits and home runs, has high praise for Coggins.
“Alyssa is a multi-faceted player with a strong tool set,” Gregory said. “When we began to coach her, we helped her to exploit all those tools, some I’m not sure she knew she had. Now she can hit, slap and drag bunt. She does a good job reading the defense and that’s what makes her so dangerous.”
Like so many student-athletes at Sam Houston, Coggins is a leader in the classroom. A first team Academic All-Southland selection she already has earned her bachelor’s degree as a general business major. She produced a 3.75 grade point average along the way.
Coggins found the challenge of mixing intercollegiate athletics with academic success to her liking.
“Playing softball has really helped me be more disciplined in my academics,” Coggins said. “You’re really busy and your have to set aside time for the academics. I’ve had some great professors here at Sam Houston. They’ve made it fun and really helped me stay focused.”
The senior now is working on her Master’s degree in business administration.
“I need four more classes for my graduate degree,” Coggins said. “I’m looking to do something in marketing. It might be sports marketing or something else. I have an internship this summer with the Houston Technology Center. It’s exciting and I’ll see where that takes me.”
But the first order of business for Coggins and the rest of the Bearkats is getting to the post-season tournament and possibly earning Sam Houston a ticket to its second appearance in the NCAA playoffs.