Barnett commits to Connecticut for softball

Samantha Barnett will play softball at the University of Connecticut. She was joined at the signing ceremony by her family and friends, as well as coaches from the Texas Blaze select team. (Paul Livengood Photo)

Samantha Barnett will play softball at the University of Connecticut. She was joined at the signing ceremony by her family and friends, as well as coaches from the Texas Blaze select team. (Paul Livengood Photo)

By Paul Livengood

Samantha Barnett, senior first baseman, moved to Liberty Hill in her junior year of high school from California. The Barnett family made the move because Samantha’s father, who works for Hewlett-Packard, was transferred from San Diego to Austin.

That was one cross country move Barnett had to adjust to, and now, she will soon be moving cross country again. This time, Barnett will be moving to Connecticut, and she’ll be making the trip by herself as she has committed to the University of Connecticut to play softball for the Huskies.

The 18-year-old senior signed her letter of intent last week, making her February verbal commitment official.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Barnett said. “Once I signed today, it is almost surreal. It’s super exciting.”

Now, Barnett can take a deep breath, and exhale as the grueling recruiting process is finally over.

“Getting recruited is a really awful process, I’m not going to lie,” Barnett said. “It’s very stressful. You not only have to focus on your softball game, but you have to focus on your academics and where you want to go and sending emails to all these coaches, so once you sign it’s like a big relief. You get to go back to playing the sport that you love, I guess. You can just focus on your hitting and your fielding. It’s nice.”

Barnett has loved playing softball since she was just three years old.

She also played volleyball growing up, but softball was her true passion. Barnett played volleyball until her sophomore year of high school, but then decided to focus solely on softball.

After growing up in California, moving to Texas was a big adjustment not only for Barnett’s personal life, but also for her softball game. The first baseman had to make new friends, and find a role on a new team. Barnett would soon find both in her select team, the Texas Blaze, and with Liberty Hill.

“Personally, the biggest difference for me is my Texas team is so much more competitive and we actually are like a family,” Barnett said. “My California team wasn’t like that.”

Barnett credits the coaches and teammates from the Texas Blaze on helping her with her recruitment.

“Playing for Texas Blaze, you learn to appreciate all of the little things,” Barnett said. “Definitely for me, I appreciate the aspect of a team and knowing what it is like to have each other’s back. All the girls who were already signed, made sure that they had my back to get me signed, and I did the same after I got signed. We always do that. Always trying to make it where they can get the best of looks.”

Her performances from the select team and with Liberty Hill garnered the attention from the University of Connecticut, Lehigh University, and some Ivy League schools. But in the end, the Huskies were unmatched.

Barnett took an unofficial visit to Connecticut in February before she verbally committed, and said she loved everything about the university.

“Well, there was a couple of things that personally I looked for,” Barnett said. “Obviously some academic support would help, and just professors being nice. I wanted to see if I could see myself just going to school there, taking out the softball aspect. And that was obviously a ‘yes’. Then, your coaching staff at Connecticut. The UCONN softball coaching staff is amazing, and they care for you for more than just softball—for your true well-being in life. There is a certain kind of atmosphere when you get on the UCONN campus and it just feels like everyone is a family. Everyone is very close-knit.”

Even a blizzard that rolled through the area just prior to Barnett’s arrival in February didn’t scare her away.

“I stayed there for a good four days, and there was never a point where I was like ‘ugh, I don’t know if I can do this snow,’” Barnett said. “I mean, granted, it is kind of a burden, but it’s beautiful. It’s gorgeous, it is like a little winter wonderland.”

After the unofficial visit, Barnett verbally committed to the Huskies, and then went back for an official visit just a few weeks ago. The senior marveled at the mild fall weather and knew Mansfield, Connecticut was where she wanted to be.

Next, Barnett will play her final season in a Liberty Hill Panther uniform before it’s time to make her second cross country move in three years’ time.

“It’ll be a change, but I don’t think I would have been able to commit to UCONN had I not moved from San Diego to Texas and realized I can make new friends and I can make a new place my home,” Barnett said. “I’m a little worried, but I think it’ll be fun and it’ll be different.”