Games 1-4 • 2019 Houston Invitational
Saturday, Feb. 9 - Sunday, Feb 10 • Houston • Cougar Softball Stadium (1,200)
HUNTSVILLE – The 2018 season for the Sam Houston State softball team kicks off on Saturday with a packed two days at the 2019 Houston Invitational. The Bearkats will take the field against four teams over the course of Saturday and Sunday, starting with the season opener against No. 13 Kentucky on Saturday morning and following up immediately against No. 22 Oklahoma State.
Sunday brings two more teams, where Sam Houston will match up with Illinois and finish the weekend contest against the host team, Houston.
All games can be followed via live stats and by following @BearkatsSB on Twitter. Live stat and video links for the weekend can be found by viewing the 2019 Houston Invitational schedule HERE.
The Kats return 13 players from last year's squad, including senior ace Lindsey McLeod and their top two long-ball hitters in Tiffany Thompson and Bailey White, all of whom were selected as preseason all-Southland Conference choices. The roster also has five new names, including four true freshman and Temple College transfer Karina Sanchez.
McLeod was named preseason first team all-Southland Conference last week after a record-breaking junior campaign, leading the SLC in strikeouts with 222 – the most in any SHSU single-season. Annie Bailey and Darby Fitzpatrick also return after logging over 20 innings each in their true freshman season in 2018.
There are a couple of new faces in the circle for the Kats as Sanchez and freshman Regan Dunn stand to make an immediate impact on the staff. Sanchez led the Lady Leopards to a 47-8 record and the 2018 NJCAA national title, earning tournament MVP honors along the way. Dunn was a four-year letterwinner at Cuero High School, finishing with over 800 strikeouts in her prep career and an ERA of just 1.06 in the circle.
Thompson and White are just a couple of players who should shine in what projects to be a strong lineup for the Bearkats. Thompson is coming off of a stellar sophomore campaign, hitting .301 and leading the team in home runs with eight. Junior centerfielder Megan McDonald also returns as one of the top outfielders in the league, and leading the team a year ago with a .310 average and a team high 53 hits.
Not only does this weekend mark the beginning of the Bearkats season, but it also marks the beginning of Garrett Valis' career as the head coach for Sam Houston State softball. Valis was named the replacement for head coach Bob Brock in May of last year following Brock's retirement after 17 years at the helm of the program. Valis is the ninth head coach in program history.
Following its opening weekend at the Houston, the Bearkats will return home to host Texas Southern on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the home opener.