New head coach Kimball Cassady looks to start off hot in tough pre-conference schedule
On Friday, Feb. 11, the Samford Bulldog softball team will begin its season against North Alabama in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Last season, the Samford softball team finished 18-27 and parted ways with former head coach Mandy Burford-Johnson. Now, the Bulldogs are looking to begin a new chapter in the 2022 season. With returning stars and a new head coach with a proven track record, Samford will look to be contenders in the SoCon once again.
Samford’s new head coach is Kimball Cassady, who spent the previous 11 seasons coaching the Birmingham Southern softball team. In her tenure with the team, Cassady had an overall record of 319-126-1. Cassady made Birmingham Southern a considerable Division III powerhouse. Athletic Director Martin Newton hired Cassady hoping that her coaching skills would easily translate to the Southern Conference.
In her most recent season with Birmingham Southern, Cassady’s squad won an NCAA Regional title, the first-ever for the program. It is clear that Cassady comes from a winning culture, something that the Bulldogs were searching for this offseason.
Cassady’s returning weapons will be key to a strong first season. Two Samford standouts from 2021 to look for will be Amanda Briskin and Timberlyn Shurbutt.
Briskin, a senior outfielder, led the team with a .348 average from the plate last season. She also tied for the lead in hits (46) and was third in on-base percentage (.394), proving her presence at the plate against a multitude of opponents.
Timberlyn Shurbutt, a senior infielder, was also a dominant force last year at the plate, as she batted .322, was second on the team in home runs (6) and led the team in RBI’s (24). While Briskin is more of an on-base machine, Shurbutt is a genuine power threat from the plate, making the combination of these two players a fearsome one-two punch for opposing pitchers.
The bullpen will likely be more of a question mark for Samford. With the two pitchers currently on the roster, Jordyn Partain and McKenzie Newcomb, being first-year students, time will tell if the pitching can keep up with the Bulldogs’ formidable pre-conference schedule.
The total ERA last season for Samford hovered around 4.00, so keeping that number down could be the key to more wins for the Bulldogs.
Starting off the season, Samford’s schedule is not a cakewalk by any means. First, the Bulldogs will play in the Black and Gold Invitational, hosted by Southern Mississippi. The Bulldogs will first play North Alabama, two games against Saint Louis, and two games against Southern Miss.
The two games against the Golden Eagles could potentially be the toughest of the Invitational, as Southern Miss will be playing on their home field in Hattiesburg.
Following the Black and Gold Invitational, Samford will travel to Kennesaw State to play the Owls in a doubleheader and then play host to Kennesaw State in a doubleheader two days later.
Overall, Samford’s schedule starts with some tough, well-coached teams, and it will be a great litmus test for Kimball Cassady in her first couple of games coaching the Bulldogs.
Samford comes into the 2022 season with a new coach, some returning stars and a demanding early schedule to begin Cassady’s tenure. The next few weeks will be an interesting early indication of Cassady’s ability to coach in the Southern Conference.