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Friday, February 6, 2015

Softball's first test starts today -- Friday Cardinal Couple

Six Returning Starters and a Youth Movement will test a challenging schedule

Freshman "Syd" joins
the Cardinal squad
The Louisville Softball team gets the season started today with a noon game against UC Davis in the Sportco Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas. The Cards will also hit and pitch against host UNLV in a second game scheduled for around 6:45 p.m.

It's five games in three days for a team that will look to blend in the ingredients of six returning starters, nine freshmen and three new pitchers. One could say Sandy Pearsall and staff has had some interesting days as they prepare for 2015 ACC Softball and the demanding pre-conference schedule. 

And, it'd be an understatement.

Back for the Cards are:

Jay Miller will "coach 'em up" as an assistant.
- Hard-hitting (when they pitch to her) senior first-baseman Brittany Duncan. The Valpo transfer went .329 at bat last year, had 10 home runs and drew a team high 48 walks. Pitchers prefer to walk her, she led the team in RBI's despite that and has the returnee's highest slugging average

- Kelsi Jones...steady as a rock in the outfield, led the team in fence-clearers with 11...this senior transfer from Missouri will be looked to for leadership and production at the plate. Jones had more at-bats than any Cardinal last season and started all 58 games. 

- Kayla Soles. The pride of New Egypt, NJ is being asked to play yet another new position (second base) and the senior has embraced the opportunity to contribute. She sent Mr. Spalding to Brandeis Street nine times in 2014 with a .297 batting average.   

New and improved Ulmer Stadium is a delightful venue
for a fan to take in a ballgame.
- Whitney Arion returns at short and was 2014 All-AAC last year. Despite a slow start at the plate, she finished with a .274 batting average and has been the backbone of the infield since her freshman year. The senior will be essential to the Cardinal successes this season.

- Maryssa Becker may have been the most pleasant and unexpected surprise of the 2014 season. The freshman pitcher became to "go to" on the mound and complied a 13-7 record and team low 2.13 ERA. She's no slouch at bat either...producing a .310 batting average.

Also returning are outfielders Morgan Meyer, Jordan McNary, Brittany Sims...catcher and third baseman Kristina Dillard, and infielders Autumn McDuffie and Paige Alford. Meyer and McNary saw the most action of this six-pack but need to improve at the plate. Both are sophomores this season and the improvement curve should continue. 

We've also had impressive pre-season reports about red-shirt freshman Nicole Pufahl. Transfer from LSU Hailey Smith is an infielder that could give the Cards a boost. 

Madi Norman joins the
pitching staff
Pitching has gotten some attention and praise with three new hurlers and one returnee besides Becker. Shelby McCombs, Bridgette Flaherty and Madi Norman join the team and Tiarra Sanabria hopes to recover from injuries and be a solid contributor either on the mound or at first.

Which freshmen will step up? Who will emerge at catcher to replace the steady and spectacular graduates Marge Ruckenbrod and Taner Fowler? Can Katie Keller's .419 batting average be replaced?

All these a new and more difficult conference alignment...await answers and results from Sandy Pearsall's squad. Staff changes and new foes will make it a season of guarded expectations and new challenges. 

The Cards were picked to finish fifth out of 11 in the ACC preseason poll. They have 20 pre-conference games...and just five of those at a brutal, demanding and travel-laden start to a pivotal transition season. They'll spend a month on the road before the home opener against Illinois State on March 6th. 

Such is life in a city and program where February home games are risky business and subject to cancellation due to inclement weather. Another reason we need a domed stadium. (President Ramsey got a big chuckle out of that Paulie proposal). 

As fans, we can help the Cards out by being there for home games. In addition to exciting softball action, you just might even see President Ramsey in "rally-cap" mode, Al Greener and the Pep Band or experience the laid-back scenario and view from the outfield berm. 

It all starts today in the desert sands of Nevada...a journey that will hopefully end up in Oklahoma City and a College World Series bid in May. 



  1. I can live without a domed stadium but I must admit that as a fan I was sorely disappointed when the renovation did not include bathrooms and a more extensive snack bar. Why those two things were not incorporated in the "under the stands area" is a mystery to me. Not having those two amenities available makes attending softball less appealing for people with kids, people who have walking issues, etc.

    All that being said, hoping for a great softball season and cooperative weather.

    1. Lacrosse has the same problems with no food stand or restroom facilities. Paulie's idea of a dome, although far-fetched as it seems, would make Louisville college softball a unique venue. Jurich is known for state-of-the-art and best-in-the-nation facilities.

      A dome? Why not?


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