Senior starting pitcher Samantha Richards embodies the type of student athlete that has all of the personal accolades, but prides herself as the ultimate team player.
The Alpharetta native has been around the game of softball since her early days of T-Ball.
“Growing up, I would get grouped with all the boys in T-Ball, which was great practice,” Richards said. “As I aged, I just gravitated to softball and found out I was good at it.”
In high school, Richards had a jaw-dropping resume that included being a two-time MVP, setting a handful of school records and even making the Georgia softball travel team.
Richards was a four-year starter at Chattahoochee High School in Alpharetta, Georgia, and to no one’s surprise, she drew attention from many schools, but she ended up in Valdosta for one reason.
“Well if I’m being honest, my mother is a big reason I became a Blazer,” Richards said. “She’s an alumni, so she gave me the inside scoop on everything at VSU.”
Richards fell in love with the campus, bought into Softball Head Coach Thomas Macera’s vision and hasn’t looked back.
However, the two time All-American recalls the transition to becoming a student athlete and how it’s easier said than done.
“Being a student athlete is no joke,” Richards said. “As a freshman, it was quite a transition for me, and it had its difficulties.”
Through time, Richards planted her feet firmly and has been succeeding on the field ever since.
While she only started eight of the 19 games she played in as a freshman, Richards started to make her presence known as a sophomore.
“I earned a little bit more of a role in pitching as a sophomore, and we did really well that season,” Richards said.
Richards did in fact play well as she earned her first All-American honors of her college career, which was just one of the things she remembers from the successful season.
“I remember the crowd that saw us off to nationals,” Richards said. “I remember the police motorcade. I remember the moment of playing on that stage, and I want to get back to that.”
The Blazers did go 38-11 and made it all the way to the NCAA Division II College World Series before eventually falling short, but it will be a memory that Richards will never forget.
After coming up short in the Division II College World Series, Richards practiced in the offseason and had an even better season as a junior.
The Blazers finished with a 38-14 record, Richards finished with All American Honors once again, but the Blazers fell just one game shy of returning to the College World Series.
“It was tough getting that close to the end again and not quite making it,” Richards said. “That’s why we put in the work this offseason to try and progress further this year.”
The offseason brought some challenges as the Blazers were losing a lot of their core to either graduation or transfers.
One of those transfers was junior catcher Kinzie Nelson, who transferred from Chipola College and won the starting catcher job. Nelson credits Richard’s hospitality as part of their success this season.
“Sam welcomed me with open arms,” Nelson said. “From the time we first met, she said she was looking forward to trying to have a great season together this year.”
Richards has played lights out this season as she holds a 23-7 starting record this season with the Blazers currently at 32-12 as they approach the end of the regular season.
“Sam is a good ball player,” Macera said. “We’ve got a lot of good players on our team year in and year out, and she has proven to be one of them”
Richards has truly made a name for herself on campus as an outstanding player on the field and student in the classroom, and her legacy is something to be remembered for years to come.
Written by: Jack Calhoun, Spectator Reporter. Photo courtesy of VSU.