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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Newcomers in the New Year; Part 1 -- WEDNESDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

New Faces in Spring Sports

The turning of the calendar page to January means all kinds of things. For example, now I can officially ignore the oversized planner that spanned the 2023-24 academic calendar in favor of the more compact 2024 planner that I bought in November rather than only unofficially ignore it. It also means that we'll start to think about spring, despite winter beginning just over two weeks ago. Funny how your brain works, right?

While we're just getting into conference play in basketball, spring sports will be on us in hurry, so let's take a little bit to look at the new names we'll need to get used to in softball and lacrosse this season. This will be a two part series, as I'll cover softball today and lacrosse on Saturday. 

Softball Sees Big Turnover

The transfer portal giveth and the transfer portal taketh away. Last season's softball team saw quite a bit of the taking, so a fair bit of giving was needed to fill the spots. Right out of the gate (we're going to go in number order because it's easiest to compare the rosters) we see a change. 

Wearing 00 for Louisville in 2024 will not be Cassie Grizzard, as she transferred to Virginia Tech. Instead, it will be Izzy Harrison, the junior transfer from UK. Harrison is a right-handed pitcher who made 10 starts in 27 appearances for the Wildcats. She threw 47 strikeouts in 42.2 innings. The Franklin, Indiana native was 3-3 in decisions at UK, with a 6.40 ERA. She threw two complete games. Harrison is a one-way player, as she saw only one at-bat in her two seasons with the Cats. Louisville needs to replace a lot of pitching, so we'll hope that Holly Aprile can calm Harrison down in the circle to reduce the number of walks and runs allowed.

Brooke Gray is the big name here. Gray comes in as the KY Gatorade Softball Player of the Year and Kentucky's Miss Softball. Gray was the MVP of the 2022 and 2023 state tournaments, both of which Ballard won. In her final two seasons with Ballard, Gray was 57-0 and struck out 687 in 376 innings. Her ERA was 0.82 as a junior and 0.81 as a senior. Gray is among the most lauded incoming freshmen that Louisville has had in any sport, especially as a hometown hero. Gray will join Alyssa Zabala as the two leaders on the pitching staff, as the Cards have to replace starts vacated by Taylor Roby. Gray can't help fill the void in the batter's box, but she should be a sight to see in the circle. Oh yeah... and Gray wears #1.

We won't dwell on the missing number 2 here, as Paige Geraghty retains the 3 (it's Sarah Gordon, the star catcher who transferred to Georgia. You remember her. Let's not talk about it.) We got one whole player before a new face showed up again. Bailee Richardson transfers in from Georgia State and wears number 4. I wrote a bit about Richardson at the time that her transfer was announced, because it was the summer and news was gold. Richardson was the team leader in RBIs (33), doubles (8), home runs (9), and slugging percentage (.551). In that article, I prognosticated that Richardson would slot in next to her former teammate, Daisy Hess, on the left side of the infield. With Easton Lotus at second, that would still seem a safe bet. I also suggested that might move Ally Alexander to catcher. We'll talk more about that in a bit.

After Pickle Winkler, we say goodbye to the number 7 as Hannah File graduates, but we haven't gotten rid of the 8. That's right, someone will step into the very big shoes left by Taylor Roby and wear the 8. Ava Venturelli is a freshman outfielder from Taunton, Massachusetts. You may remember that Louisville needs an outfielder as Korbe Otis also departed. Venturelli (a few times typing that and she might just become Ava) was a three-peat champion in high school and was nominated for the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. She was named the 20th overall recruit by Extra Innings and was No. 71 in the Extra Elite 100. Venturelli hit .479 with a .565 OBP as a senior and had 9 home runs and 35 RBIs. Her power was down a bit, but perhaps because she was being walked after hitting .457 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs as a junior. 

Two more newbies come after Vanessa Miller. Chelsea Mack is a sophomore transfer from UK, joining Harrison as a player changing allegiances. Louisville's new #10 was a role player for UK, as she saw just 13 at-bats last season. She was used as a pinch runner effectively, as she stole 8 bases and scored six runs. One of each of those came in UK's win over Louisville. Mack hit .231 with three singles and had one strikeout. Experience is hard to come by as a freshman, but I think that the outfielder could find a spot in this lineup.

Char Lorenz
Jac Hasty
Next is one of the reasons I'm confused about Louisville's infield. Jac Hasty is a C/INF from Chesapeake, Virginia. Hasty joins Kiley Goff (39) and Char Lorenz (42) as incoming catchers, so I'm just going to talk about them all here. Goff seems most likely to win the spot. She's a senior transfer from Maryland who started her career in her backyard at Purdue. She's from West Lafayette. In her freshman season, she started 40 games and played in all 44. She was second on the team in runs and hits and led the team in triples. Last season with Maryland, she started 54 games, primarily as a catcher. She led the team in runs and led the Big Ten in thrown out baserunners. On the base paths herself, Goff was 18-22. Pretty good. Hasty and Lorenz, both freshman, will have their work cut out for them against a veteran like Goff, especially one with her numbers already in college. Both freshmen come with success of their own in high school, so we'll keep an eye on how this battle plays out. 

Kiley Goff

For the first time after Hasty at 11, we have two players back-to-back that are returning, both of whom I've already mentioned (12-Lotus, 13-Zabala). Riley Frizell is the next newcomer at 14, and she transfers in from Missouri. The infielder (wait, there are a bunch of those) started in 49 games for the Tigers last year, 28 times at 1B and 21 times at DP. We'll have to get used to a regular designated player without Roby playing two ways every other game. As a junior, Frizell hit .216 with five doubles, a triple, five homers, and 22 RBI. Her OBP ticks up a bit to .284, but her .665 OPS isn't stunning. Where she excels is on defense. Frizell finished with a .977 fielding percentage as a freshman, dropped slightly to .962 as a sophomore (only 2 errors on 53 chances), and then posted a 1.000 fielding percentage last year with 213 putouts and five assists. Louisville needs consistency on defense. Perhaps Frizell can help provide it.

Had Frizell worn 77 like she did at Mizzou instead of 14, we would have had six uninterrupted players, so the next four (Forsythe, Holloway, Hess, and Alexander) are veterans on the team. Katie Thatcher wears 24, replacing Mikayla Hurst in the number. (I didn't mention it earlier, but Jac Hasty inherits the 11 from Taja Felder.) Thatcher is a utility player that bats and throws left-handed. The freshman from Rock Falls, Illinois is an on-base machine, as she hit .553 as a senior. She turned 57 hits in 51 runs and 42 RBIs while only hitting 9 homers. Though not listed as a pitcher on Louisville's roster, Thatcher was 19-3 with a 1.81 ERA and 214 strikeouts last year. She was named to the first team all-state team last year and was first team all-conference in the last two. Thatcher was named the 2023 Sauk Valley Player of the Year.

Maddi Grant wears 25, Sam Booe wears 51, and I've already talked about Kiley Goff and Char Lorenz. That means that Lindsey Mullen (28) is the last newcomer (players only) on the squad. Mullen is a freshman from Leesburg, Virginia and is a right-handed pitcher. We'll see whether or not she plays both ways at UofL, but Mullen added a .469 average and 8 homers to her sparkling 0.39 ERA last season. She also struck out 193 batters in 89.2 innings. Mullen was the 4C Co-Region Player of the Year last year and helped her team to the state quarterfinals. Lindsey will join what looks to be an impressive bunch of arms to try to solidify what has been a sore spot for the Cards of late, despite strong individual performances. 

In addition to the players, Holly Aprile's coaching staff sees a bit of a shakeup this year. Griffin Joiner remains the first assistant, but the rest of the staff (with the exception of an undergraduate manager) turns over. Bryce Neal and Casey Bonk are out as assistant coach and director of operations and Aprile brings in two assistants as well as a new ops director in response. Bryan Sabatella comes over after two seasons as the hitting and infield coach at Utah Tech and DeeDee Morris joins the staff after 8 seasons as an assistant at Mount St. Joseph University. Morris joined the Mount after a year as a Graduate assistant at her alma mater, NKU. Jeremy Randolph is the new director of operations, coming to Louisville after two years in the same role for the UCF baseball team. Randolph played most of his collegiate ball for Wright State before moving to Alabama as a graduate transfer. Randolph led the Tide in appearances (22) and saves (9) in 2019 before being drafted by the Cardinals in the 26th round. He joined the staff at UCF after one year in the minors. 

All in all, the Cards welcome 11 new players to the roster and say goodbye to just seven. It should be an exciting season this year as Louisville looks to build on an NCAA Regional appearance from a year ago. The Cards will get underway in just over a month as they kick off the season at the FGCU Classic on February 9th.

As I mentioned, tune in for the continuation of this miniseries on Saturday when we look at lacrosse.

Until next time, Go Cards!

All photos are official player portraits from

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