HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State softball team capped off a successful fall season recently, finishing with a near-perfect record of 7-0-1, as they prepare for the upcoming 2018 season. The Bearkats finished fourth in the Southland a year ago in hitting and picked up where they left off with a team average of .338 for the fall.
“We were real excited about getting started,” head coach Bob Brock said. “We have added some left-handed hitting and speed and we could not wait to get out there and see what was going to happen with that. It did not take long after a few practices to see that’s exactly what we needed. As the fall went on and the games started, you could really tell the difference and it really helped us out”
The addition of speed was evident with the Kats swiping 11 bags during the fall slate, but the powerful Bearkat lineup also showed off the long ball with 10 homers in the eight contests.
Tiffany Thompson, Bailey White and freshman Brooke Malia each sent two over the fence while junior first baseman Codi Carpenter, junior transfer Taylar Fuselier, sophomore Casey Kauder, and sophomore West Texas A&M transfer Hunter Ervin each also had one. The squad averaged 8.75 runs a game and finished with 70 RBI with 33 accounted for by White (19) and Carpenter (14).
“Having Bailey back this year is going to make a big difference for us,” Brock said. “We lost her last year just before the season started and seeing her in there this fall was encouraging. To put a bat like that in our lineup will make us just that much more potent.”
Thompson achieved a .351 average in her 37 at-bats with four doubles and two homers after a terrific freshman season in which she led the Bearkats with seven homers while hitting .297. Junior Codi Carpenter led the Bearkats in both batting average (.517) and on-base percentage (.648).
The 2016 recruiting class of White, Thompson, Megan Crosby, Megan McDonald and Kauder continued to build off their stellar freshman seasons accounting for half of the team’s homers, 37 of the 70 runs batted in, and hit a combined .318 during the fall.
“I’ve always said that when freshmen get to play a lot their first year, they don’t come back as sophomores, they come back as juniors,” Brock said. “We had several freshmen who had to play extensively for us last year, and in key positions such as catcher, shortstop and center field. We’ve seen a really good jump with those players and they are helping push the new freshmen as well.”
The Bearkat newcomers looked unfazed in their first action with four finishing with above a .500 on-base percentage. Malia hit safely in half of her 24 at-bats while Kayte Martinez hit .304 over her 23 at-bats. Freshman Sheridan Johnson, a Cypress product, closed out the fall with a .385 average off of 15 hits with a .550 on-base percentage, scoring 10 times.
The Bearkats pitching staff was stellar with a combined 2.36 ERA while holding opponents only a .164 average. The staff saw two seasoned returners get back to work in the circle in junior Lindsey McLeod and Kauder. McLeod, and all-SLC honorable mention choice a year ago, pitched a team-high 24.1 innings with another team high 42 strikeouts.
“We are going to have to pick up the slack where our pitcher, Tayler Atkinson, left, but I think the fall showed us some good things in that area,” Brock said. “One of our freshman pitchers, Annie Bailey, really stepped up and pitched well. We also had Casey Kauder pitch more, and I think she is really going to be able to help us out there this year.”
Kauder tossed 19.2 innings in the circle and held batters to a .257 mark, while Bailey allowed just five hits in 70 opponent at-bats over 20 innings and held batters to a miniscule .071 average to go with a 0.70 ERA. Darby Fitzpatrick, another freshman, also tossed 10 innings over the fall with a 2.36 earned round average.
Sam Houston will open up the 2018 season on Feb. 8 when they take on Texas State in the opener of Texas State Tournament. The Kats will then return home to host their own tournament beginning Feb. 16 where they will be joined by Seton Hall, Wichita State, Northern Colorado and perennial national power Washington.