HUNTSVILLE - The defending Southland Conference softball champions will be tested right out of the gate with some quality opponents before league action begins, according to the schedule released Monday by Sam Houston State head coach Garrett Valis.
The Bearkats will open the season at the Stetson Tournament in Deland, Florida where they will face George Mason, Boston University and the host Hatters Feb. 7-9.
Sam Houston State will then return home to host a midweek game (Feb. 12) against Houston, who the Bearkats played in the Austin Regional of the NCAA Tournament this past spring, before hosting the first of two tournaments in Huntsville. The Bearkat Classic will feature George Mason, Providence and Loyola-Chicago Feb. 14-16.
The Bearkats will hit the road to participate in the LSU Tournament with games against the Tigers and Belmont Feb. 21-22 then head to College Station to play the Aggies in a doubleheader on Feb. 26.
Sam Houston State welcomes North Dakota State and Louisiana to town for the Bearkat Invitational Feb. 28-March 1.
The rest of the nonconference schedule includes a home and home with Texas Southern (March 4 in Huntsville, April 7 in Houston), a double header at Louisiana (March 11), a home contest against Texas State (March 17) and road games at Texas-Arlington (April 1) and North Texas (April 15).
“Our spring nonconference schedule will be an excellent test with 14 games against opponents who played in an NCAA regional last year,” Valis said. “The challenge that a schedule like this presents will help us prepare for another very competitive year in the Southland Conference. The best part of the schedule is we will play 10 home games in February which has not happened here.
“Hosting two tournaments with quality opponents will give our fans plenty of opportunities to see what this year’s team is all about.”
The defense of the Bearkats’ SLC regular-season and tournament title will begin with a three-game series at Northwestern State (April 6-7). Sam Houston State’s conference home-opening series will be against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi March 13-14.
The Kats will also host Nicholls (April 3-4), Incarnate Word (April 10-11) and Central Arkansas (April 17-18). Sam Houston State’s SLC road series will be at Abilene Christian (March 20-21), Lamar (March 27-28), Houston Baptist (April 24-25) and Stephen F. Austin (May 1-2).
The Southland Conference Tournament will be in Hammond, Louisiana on the campus of Southeastern Louisiana May 5-9.
“The Southland schedule is similar to last year with home and away flipped so it will be a very good test for us,” Valis said. “Our league is so competitive and filled with awesome coaches, so I expect it to be a fun year for the league and our program.”