Coming into this season, there was a lot of preseason hype around a certain 6’2’’ left-handed pitcher from right here in Birmingham. Many around the Samford program as well as the state of Alabama knew of his potential and that he could be a great collegiate player. How did he live up to these expectations? All true freshman Sam Strickland has done so far is start the season with a perfect 6-0 record to go along with a 1.35 ERA.
Sam Strickland started playing baseball at a very young age, playing T-ball at Heardmont Park in Birmingham. He not only possessed talent on the baseball diamond, but in other sports growing up as well.
“I played football when I was younger, and I played one year of football in high school. I also played basketball in elementary school and middle school,” Strickland said.
Strickland attended Briarwood Christian School, which sits just about 11 miles away from Samford. He did admit that he enjoys playing so close to home.
“It’s very nice because I can go home anytime and my family gets to come to every game,” Strickland said.
He also pointed out other reasons for choosing the Bulldogs besides the obvious close proximity to home.
“There really weren’t any negatives about it at all,” he said. “I just think it was the best option for me. Out of the other schools that offered me, Samford was definitely the best one by far.”
Sam’s successful start to the 2018 season has not gone unnoticed, as he has been named SoCon Pitcher of the Week three different times. He credits his work ethic and the knowledge he has gained from his coaches and teammates in helping him with his impressive start so far.
“(It’s) all the hard work we put in every day,” Strickland said. “Constantly learning from the upperclassmen and the coaches who are teaching me stuff every day. All that put together has really helped me out a lot.”
When asked if there were any upperclassmen that he and the rest of the freshman on the team have really looked up to for leadership, he pointed out two in particular.
“We definitely look up to Josh (Rich) cause he’s a big leader on the team. We learn from him because he makes us do what we need to do,” he said. “We also look up to Cody (Shelton) since he’s been here for so long.”
Strickland’s command has been something that has really amazed spectators this season, as he has only walked six batters in his 46 ⅔ innings of work this season. He has also recorded 45 strikeouts. He attributes his strong poise on the mound to a new pitch that he has added to his repertoire.
“My best pitch is probably my changeup right now,” Strickland said. “That’s actually something that coach Dunn taught me in the fall. It has really turned out to be a great pitch.”
Out of Strickland’s eight starts this season, he has three scoreless outings, and has only failed to pitch five or more innings twice. When asked which of his Samford starts was his most memorable this season, he chose his start against The Citadel on April 7.
“Probably The Citadel because we were the most hype coming in. That was probably the best game I’ve thrown in,” he said.
In the outing, he pitched seven shutout innings, giving up only three hits and striking out five batters.
Off the field, Strickland is a computer science major at Samford. He enjoys spending time with friends and getting to meet people all across Samford’s campus.
“My favorite things to do are probably just hanging out with friends and teammates, and meeting new people because everyone here is so nice,” he said.
As far as his go-to meal in the Caf is concerned, he had a quick answer.
“Probably grilled chicken and a corn dog with a sweet tea to drink,” he laughed.
Strickland has developed himself as the usual Saturday starter for the Bulldogs with his excellent command and poise on the mound. He looks to continue his successful season as Samford takes on UNCG this upcoming weekend in a three-game series to be played in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Collin Reese, Staff Writer
[photo courtesy of Chase Cochran]