After breaking 10 school records and leading her team to a second place finish at the state tournament in 2017, Pilot Grove senior pitcher Samarah Bailey decided that Hutchison Community College in Kansas would be her next stop after a stellar career for the Lady tigers.
A four-time all-conference, all-district, all-region and all-state selection at Pilot Grove, Bailey said she chose Hutchison because it has an amazing softball program and community. “The support from the college is immense and they take athletics and academics incredibly seriously,” Bailey said. “Hutch has a great softball program that will be a good match for me in my plans to further my career as a softball player.”
Pilot Grove softball coach Neal Bailey, who also happens to be Samarah’s father, said his daughter has been a big part of the program, especially the last two years pitching.
“Again you see her stats and she averaged 15.5 strikeouts per game and when you do that you’ve got a pretty good start of making a few outs here and there and it gives you a pretty good chance,” Bailey said. “She also hit fairly well for batting average and was at the upper part of the batting order. She was just an all-around great leader. When things didn’t go the way we wanted to, she was always there to help regroup everybody back up and help lead the team to what is whatever we are trying to do.”
Bailey said his daughter also worked hard but cited her mental discipline as her greatest asset.
“She doesn’t let a whole lot of stuff affect her,” Bailey said. “She doesn’t let the highs get to high and the lows get to low. She knows that it is one pitch at a time. She also understands the game as well as anybody I have ever coached and she knows the situations. She can read batters so just all that together. She is just an all-around good softball player but I would say her mental approach to the game and her mental abilities and discipline kind of what separates her from a lot of pitchers out there.”
While the Lady Tigers set a total of 19 single season or career records at Pilot Grove, Bailey had her hand in 10 of those records and may have played her best ball in 2018 while finishing 21-4 with an ERA of .603 with 318 strikeouts in 151 innings. The senior standout also gave up just 79 hits and 40 runs (13 earned) while walking just 20 batters. She also finished third on the team in hitting with a .349 clip with 29 hits in 83 at bats with 15 singles, nine doubles, five home runs, 20 RBIs and 27 runs scored.
As for the 10 records, the right-handed hurler broke the single season mark with three no-hitters along with the best ERA in a single season at 0.603, strikeouts with 318, wins with 21 and best win/loss percentage in a single season at 0.84.
As for the five career records, Bailey now holds the record for 55 career wins, most strikeouts with 739, best ERA at 1.32, most no-hitters with eight and best win/loss percentage at 0.77.
Bailey has also had many big games in her career. “I have had the fortune of playing in a countless number of great games in my career,” Bailey said. “Especially over the last two years of may high school career I have been able to form bonds with the other players on the team. I cannot thank all of these girls enough and I cannot stress enough how amazing every single game with them has been. However, If I had to pick one game that consider my personal biggest game, it would be the district championship game my freshman year. That game made me realize no matter how good you are as a player, the mental side of the game is just as important. I only pitched part of one inning, but that game changed my life as a player and gave me the success I have today. After that game I multiplied my efforts toward the mental and physical side of the game, making me who I am today.”
Bailey said without playing travel softball, she would be here today signing with Hutchison CC. She said she was able to play against the top athletes from different stats through summer softball. “My dad and I have been working together on this journey since I was little and I couldn’t have done it without him through all of those summers. However, that doesn’t mean high school hasn’t impacted me. Those girls have made me into the player I am today as much as those summer teams have.”
Bailey said she also has room for improvement to play at the next level. She said one thing she can always improve on is her strength and agility. “Having a collegiate level strength and conditioning program will help me in my overall game,” Bailey said.
As far her short and long term goals, Bailey said her goal at Hutch is to become the best player she can be.
“They will help hone my skills on and off the field,” Bailey said. “I wish to become a player who can compete at the highest level and potentially transfer to a successful four-year university to compete for that future program. As for my long term goals, I want to play at a four year university and further my softball career through that school. I am also planning on continuing to stay in the softball/sports world in my career.”
Bailey said she also had a process while narrowing down which school she wanted to attend, but once she saw Hutchison and visited the campus, she was fairly set on going there. “A few other community colleges were on my radar but Hutchison really stood out for me,” Bailey said. “The early interactions with the coaches at Hutch were e-mails from me to the pitching coach. I contacted him first and then carried on the conversation from there. The coaches at Hutch came to one of my tournaments over the summer and I was able to attend one of their camps before school started. That camp really jump-started our interactions and before I knew it, I was set on Hutchison.”
While pitching will be Bailey’s main focus of attention at Hutchison, she said she will also be hitting as well.
“Honestly I have been training to become the best softball player I could be for as long as I could remember,” Bailey said. “I have been pitching since I was 8 years old. One of the key factors in me becoming the best athlete I could be is to take everything one step at a time. I always wanted to play at the “next level” but when I was young that meant high school. Once I was playing in high school, I could also focus on playing in college.”
Bailey said it was also hard at times for him to separate being a father and a coach with his daughter.
“It’s hard because you try to separate out the parent and the coach but I give her most of the credit, she has done a really good job of separating out herself,” Bailey said. “It was always coach and player and she did a really good job of keeping the on field stuff and off field stuff separate and went about it like I was the coach and she was just another player. I tried to keep the same approach, but it’s difficult because at the same time you can’t remove all that stuff completely. You try but it’s difficult.”
Bailey said a lot of the credit also goes to her parents for sticking with her through this entire experience.
“My dad has been there for me every step of the way through my growth as a player,” Bailey said. “He has spent countless hours helping me and developing me as a player. He has been an amazing coach to not just me, but all of the teams he has coached over the years. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that he has helped so many players become the best athletes and people they could be.”
Bailey also developed into a great student/athlete not only on the field but off the field for the Lady Tigers for the last four years.”