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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Softball sets sights toward season -- Wednesday Cardinal Couple


Paulie's Day at Softball Practice

On a overcast but unseasonably warm Tuesday afternoon I watched as the Louisville softball team went through a rare outdoor practice for this time of year in Derby City. In the pitching warm up areas behind the third base line, assistant coach Jay Miller kept a dutiful eye on the contingent of pitchers and catchers engaged in the repetitive toss-and-return of the optic yellow orbs. Occasionally commenting, Miller watched as Maryssa Becker, Madi Norman and Kaylea Horn kept Cardinal catchers Alison "Mike" Szydlowski , Jenna Jordan and Morgan Hart busy receiving their tosses. 

On the main field, the infield goes through game situations...receiving ground balls, deciding which runner to throw out...while yelling various numbers to the fielder involved in the play. Readily recognizable to me on the field were third baseman Ashley Nicolao, red-haired Nicole Pufahl and Jamie Soles from my interactions with them at the softball banquet. Michala "Riggs" Riggle stands out at first base because of her tall stature. Coaches Stacy May-Johnson and Cheyanne Tarango watch the action, shouting out scenarios and instructions and stopping it occasionally for teaching opportunities. The outfielders and the rest of the squad are lined up at the various bags...serving as base-runners. I recognize the speedy Jordan McNary and senior Hailey Smith as participants. The players look a lot different in their uniforms than they did in their festive attire at the banquet. I realize I've got a bit of studying to do to learn this current roster.

Head coach Sandy Pearsall watches the drill...first from the front of the Koetter Center on the right field line...and then up close from the first base area. Her instructions are short and to the point. She walks over briefly to the third-base line, near where I am sitting in the bleachers, to talk with Stacy...and then she vanishes while I am chatting with softball assistant S.I.D. Lori Korte about the squad. 

Practice has ended on the field so Lori and I head to the Koetter Center to see if I can get a few words with Coach.

She is watching several players take swings against the automatic pitching machines in the facility. She is making comments and suggestions as Nicolao smashes balls into the netting that surrounds the batting cage. We start the interview...which will be available in its entirety on our Saturday Cardinal Couple Radio Hour broadcast. They've moved indoors for hitting...Coach Peasall assures me that the rain is coming and Korte chimes in that Sandy becomes a meteorological expert this time of year.  

There have been changes in the infield as the trip to Corpus Christi to start the season draws closer. What Pearsall really likes is that everyone is working hard and starting "to get it" and she's seeing improvement each day. 

The conversation turns to hitting. Maryssa Becker is the first name to be mentioned and she's expected to continue her assault at the plate this season. Hailey Smith has looked really good so far and transfer Jenna Jordan " J.J." is making an impact at the plate. Brittany Sims is impressing Sandy and there are a few others that are showing potential. 

Speed wise, McNary returns as the "slapper" and has learned a few additional things at the plate to ensure she'll be a frequent base-circler for the Cards. Coach is encouraged that "Mike" and Pufahl are showing early signs of being contributors. Sidney Melton and Morgan Meyer have also caught Coach's eye in the early going. 

New faces to learn and watch start with Jordan...a sophomore transfer from Northern Colorado...who has made an impact offensively and defensively. Freshman Horn is another newcomer that Pearsall is high on. Megan Hensley, a freshman from Ashland, KY. has impressed on the mound and also with her power at the plate. Coach sees the potential for her to "become another Maryssa Becker" as her career develops and she gets a little experience under her belt. 

Life is good these days for Sandy Pearsall. Delighted with the current weather and the progress of her squad... 

" I almost feel like I'm in Corpus Christi right now" she smiles. "I feel like we're pretty close right now." 

We end the interview with me suggesting she's ready to jump in the cage and take a few swings. I get a firm but chuckling denial on that statement. It is time for Coach to go back to work. 

Korte escorts me back to the S.A.C. Center. The sky IS clouding Pearsall said it would. Louisville Softball, however, appears to be full of rays of positives and optimism as they draw closer to the start of the season. 

9 days away...



  1. I loved your prose style in this entry, Paulie.
    Almost poetry.

    1. Thanks! It was a great afternoon and, once again, my appreciation to Lori and Sandy for letting me observe and comment. I am looking forward to this season


  2. Does Softball have a chance at getting to the Super Regionals or beyond this year?

    Blue Lou

    1. That is *so* hard to answer pre-season...particularly with sports outside of M&W Basketball and Football that don't get nearly the level of scrutiny.

      From what I've seen, there's a huge amount of talent on this team, which means that, yes, they do have a shot at the sort of achievement.

      We've talked about there being a lot of new faces on this team, which could pose a similar sort of challenge that Walz's team had at the beginning of the year...the challenge to gel together and play as a team rather than a bunch of individuals. I kind of feel like a big part of their success this season will be dependent on their ability to do that.

    2. Possibly...if:
      1) Becker stays healthy. She's the gunslinger.
      2) A back up for Becker. A solid 1 or 2 pitchers for those doubleheaders
      3) Hitting. A lot of unproven bats.
      4) Newcomer contributions. How well do the freshmen and transfers do?

      Let's see how they do early against Texas A&M, Nebraska and Wisconsin. That'll give us an idea how they'll fare against strong conferences.



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