The Louisville softball team will open the season on Friday in Las Vegas. The Cardinals who are ranked No. 18 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association preseason poll, will participate in the UNLV Sportco Kick-Off Classic.
Third team All-American Taner Fowler is one of seven starters returning for a team that finished 55-5 last season; a school best. Fowler is a catcher/utility player from Morganfield, KY who played at Union County High School. Last season, she had a team-high 12 home runs and 52 RBIs.
The biggest loss for the Cardinals was on the mound. Tori Collins finished her Louisville career by posting a 25-2 record last season and teammate Chelsea Leonard went 11-2. The two combined for 270.2 innings pitched and 294 strikeouts. However, UofL does return Caralisa Connell in the circle. Connell posted an impressive 19-1 record last season while earning 2012 All BIG EAST third team honors. Connell, from Murfreesboro, TN will likely handle a majority of the pitching duties.
Senior Alicja Wolny will provide some offensive firepower along with Fowler. Wolny, an El Dorado Hills, CA native hit a team high .387 last season and finished with 10 HR and 43 RBIs.
Head coach Sandy Pearsall has led the Cardinals to a 506-261 record in 13 seasons as the only coach in the programs history. UofL fielded a softball team for the first time in 2000 and recently made their ninth straight NCAA regional appearance.
Louisville will open Friday with back-to-back games against Texas Tech at 4:15 pm ET and then play host UNLV. The Cardinals will battle DePaul and Central Florida on Saturday before wrapping up Sunday against Minnesota.
Next weekend, the team will travel south to Jacksonville, FL to play another five games. On February 22-24, they will play their first home weekend series during the Cardinal Classic at Ulmer Stadium. Kent State, Buffalo, and Eastern Illinois will be participating in the event.