#35 Louisville Softball 2016 Preview

Louisville Cardinals
Overall Rank: #35
Conference Rank: #6 ACC
Louisville Logo 
 Louisville earned its 12th consecutive ticket to the NCAA Tournament last season, finishing its season in the Columbia (Mo.) Regional, where it went 0-2. It was a successful ACC debut for the Cardinals as they finished in fourth place with a 16-7 conference record and had three players named to the All-ACC First Team. Only one of those three returns to a squad that will be very young. Just nine of the 22 players on this year's roster are upperclassmen.
2015: 30-19, 16-7
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Sandy Pearsall
Field Players:
Of those three All-ACC players, only Maryssa Becker returns, but she had a monster year last season so it's a good starting block. The now-junior had 51 hits, a team-leading nine home runs, 12 doubles and a team-high 39 RBI last season. She finished third in batting among the starters as well, hitting .342. Becker isn't alone, however. Jordan McNary, Brittany Sims and Hailey Smith return after each starting at least 43 games last season. McNary was second on the team with a .352 average and knocked out 43 hits. Sims hit .325, had 41 hits, nine doubles and five home runs, while stealing six bases, which was second on the team. Smith hit .288 and knocked out 36 hits. The trick for the Cardinals will be replacing Kelsi Jones and Whitney Arion, both of whom graduated and are in the NPF. They were also the other two players who earned All-ACC honors last year. Jones led the team in average (.364), runs (37), hits (52), doubles (19) and steals (12). Arion earned All-conference honors in all four years she played for Louisville, oddly enough in three different leagues (ACC, AAC, Big East).
Maryssa Becker returns as the ace after going 14-9 with a 2.12 ERA with 147 strikeouts last season. Six of her 17 complete games were shutouts. Losing last year's No. 2 starter may seem like a bad thing, until you see that the Cardinals bring in two-time Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year Megan Hensley. In her senior season, Hensley finished with a 25-8 record and 371 strikeouts, while leading her team to third place in the state tournament. As a junior, she finished 30-6 with 415 strikeouts.
Who to Watch:
The Cardinals welcome five transfers to this year's squad, including junior college All-American Sarah Lopesilvero. The junior infielder hit .474 with 93 hits, 19 home runs and 80 RBI last season. That was following a freshman season where she hit .471 with 16 home runs and 68 RBI. Her arrival may help ease the losses of Arion and Jones. The Cardinals also welcome Jessica Adell, a transfer from Tennessee. The sophomore comes back to her home city. She joins Hensley as a former Kentucky Gatorade Softball Award winner (2013), giving the Cards the last three winners on this year's team.
Final Projection:
Louisville has been a consistent NCAA Tournament squad and looks to continue that streak. Returning Becker as well as McNary, Sims and Smith is huge for that. Becker has gotten better each of her two years. Will that trend continue this year as well? McNary, Sims and Smith are also upperclassmen and can they help players such as Hensley and Lopesilvero make the transition to Division I softball an easy one? Both Hensley and Lopesilvero put up amazing numbers at previous stops. Will that continue as the competition gets better? Louisville's nonconference schedule is relatively easy, with the strongest tests coming from Nebraska and Kentucky and a single game with Michigan. The Cardinals' two toughest ACC series are both on the road to end the season, at Notre Dame and Florida State.
Projected Postseason:  NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Maryssa Becker, P/1B, 149
Hits: Maryssa Becker, P/1B, 51
Home Runs: Maryssa Becker, P/1B, 9
RBIs: Maryssa Becker, P/1B, 39
Runs: Brittany Sims, IF, 27
Stolen Bases: Jordan McNary, OF, 6
Wins: Maryssa Becker, P, 14
Innings Pitched: Maryssa Becker, P, 171.1
Strikeouts: Maryssa Becker, P, 147
Complete Games: Maryssa Becker, P, 17