Arizona softball welcomes new faces for 2018
Arizona softball is welcoming in some new faces to the program, with less than a month until opening day. Head coach Mike Candrea announced the arrival of two transfers from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, redshirt senior Aleah Craighton and sophomore Alyssa Denham.
Both Craighton and Denham are coming off successful campaigns for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Craighton, a center fielder, was named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All American first team, after hitting for a .345 avg, knocking in 53 RBIs, and hitting 18 home runs. She is a career .365 hitter, with a 1.293 career OPS. She additionally has career fielding percentage of .966.
“Aleah is a very athletic outfielder that hits with power and someone who has played this game at a very high level,” Candrea said in an Arizona Athletics press release.
Craighton is coming into the program facing an uphill battle. Redshirt sophomore Alyssa Palomino started 54 of the 61 games last season, as a redshirt freshman, hitting .302, with 16 home runs, batting in 54 runs. Palomino did not make an error last season. This means that Craighton will need to compete for playing time as a senior.
Alyssa Denham is the reigning Sun Belt Freshman of the Year, posting a 15-2 record, with a 2.27 ERA, in 129.9 innings pitched. She went the distance nine times, with two complete game shutouts. She also recorded a save, as she entered the game as a reliever eight times. Denham had nearly a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
“Alyssa had a very good year last year," Candrea said. "I'm excited to see what she does not only this year but moving forward throughout the remainder of her career.”
Denham may have an easier time seeing the field. Seniors started 40 games last season in the circle. Danielle O’Toole started the majority of the games for the ‘Cats, going 30-5, with a 1.21 ERA, and graduated at the end of last year. However, Taylor McQuillin started 20 games, winning 16, posting a 1.92 ERA. She is heading into her junior season.
“Both of them [Craighton and Denham] have a proven track record of success at the highest level. The key now is to get these two new pieces to fit with what we have now,” Candrea said on the roles of the transfers. “The first two or three weeks of practice we'll be doing a lot of intersquading to give me a chance to see them perform against our pitchers and hitters. From there both of them have the capabilities of helping out this team this year."
UA kicks off its season playing in the Kajikawa Classic, in Tempe. Arizona’s first game is against Northwestern on Friday, February 9th, at 11:30 a.m.. That game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.
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