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Softball: 2023 LWC season preview

On June 29, 2022, Callum Pilgrim was named the eighth head coach in Lindsey Wilson's softball program history by Athletic Director Willis Pooler. 224 days later, the former Blue Raider is set to officially begin her first season at the helm when the locals travel down to Louisiana this weekend for their 2023 opener.

"I am honored to be named the Head Coach at Lindsey Wilson College," Pilgrim said. "My time as a Blue Raider had a powerful impact both as a professional and a student-athlete. It is my vision to create a positive culture and environment which will leave a lasting impact on current and future members of the program. LWC holds such a special place in my heart, and I can't wait to be back and get started."

This year's roster features a healthy mix of veterans, upperclassmen, and newcomers, including 13 returnees from 2022's line-up.

Two-time Second-Team All-Mid-South selection Alexis Garayzar headlines the returning baker's dozen, along with Za'Kiya Sizemore, Kelsie Bostock, and 2022 First-Team All-Conference honoree Desiree Chang.

"We are bringing back great leadership behind the plate in Alexis and Kelsie," noted Pilgrim. "Za'Kiya and Desiree both have World Series experience, so they know what it takes to compete at the highest level."

Garayzar smacked a career-high 44 hits and seven home runs in 2022. She also batted in 35 runs, the most among the Blue Raiders' returners. At the catcher position, Garayzar recorded 232 putouts while catching a team-high four runners stealing.

Bostock, another catcher for Lindsey Wilson, appeared in 16 games last season and posted the highest fielding percentage of anyone on the team with a minimum of 10 chances - a perfect 100 percent.

Chang and Sizemore were two of the Blue Raiders' strongest bats, combing for 106 hits. In 52 starts, the latter of the two finished second in total triples (2), third in total doubles (13), and fifth in total runs scored (32). Chang, on the other hand, muscled career-bests in hits (62), doubles (6), and runs batted in (24) all while batting 0.380.

Elsewhere for Lindsey Wilson, sophomore Brylee Pickerell is projected to step up on both sides of the ball. According to coach Pilgram, the Summer Shade, Kentucky native "is going to be a big contributor to our success. She is extremely athletic and can play anywhere on the field. She's also an outstanding person who leads by example and makes everyone around her better."

Pickerell made eight appearances for the Blue Raiders last year, including an outing against Shawnee State in which she scored twice, chipped in a hit and an RBI, and produced one stolen base.

In the circle, senior Kaylee Covey leads a rotation comprised additionally of two sophomores and two freshmen. In 2022, Covey went 2-3 in 11 appearances, striking out 13 total batters and being one of only three Blue Raiders to record a save. She is joined by Olivia Franceschi, a California native who closed her first year in Columbia with eight victories in 14 starts.

"All of our pitchers will bring something different in the circle," explained Pilgrim. "We are a young staff, and the ability to keep hitters off balance will be a key component to our game."

Of the 22 athletes listed on this season's roster, nine are either new freshmen or transfers.

One of those names is Madyson Jones, a Central Hardin High School graduate from Elizabethtown. In high school, Jones garnered 17th District All-Tournament status and was named to the News Enterprise All-Area Team and 5th Region All-Star Team.

"Madyson is a freshman who is going to make an immediate impact on the field," expressed Pilgrim. "She loves to play defense, and as a staff, we are extremely proud of her development as a vocal leader on the field."

Speaking of transfers, Lindsey Wilson welcomes three to this year's line-up. Junior Cheyenne Sandoval and sophomore Abigail Cruz come to Kentucky from Yavapai College in Arizona, and sophomore Amanda Schick moves up to the Mid-South from Chipola College in Florida.

Yavapai College should sound familiar to Blue Raider fans. Last year's roster featured five transfers from the NJCAA institution, including Alexis Garayzar.

Looking ahead to this season's schedule, Lindsey Wilson faces a notable challenge right out of the gate at this weekend's LSU-Alexandria Invitational. The locals will see two teams actively ranked inside the NAIA's top 15 in No. 8 Central Methodist and 12th-ranked William Carey.

The Blue Raiders are also set to see two additional ranked programs from within their own conference throughout the season.

Nine different opponents will visit Marilyn D. Sparks Park in 2023. Four of which are in-league rivals, while elsewhere on the calendar includes a road series with "Highway 55" foe Campbellsville University, and the Mid-South tournament, which is set to begin on May 4.

"We have a tough schedule. The players understand how important it will be to play one-pitch softball," said Pilgrim. "We don't get to take a game off, and they're ready to embrace the challenge."

Lindsey Wilson is aiming to get back to the NAIA National Tournament for a ninth consecutive season in 2023, and the journey begins on February 10.

"This group is special. It's been amazing to watch them grow as softball players and people. When you can look to your left and your right and trust that that person supports you no matter what, it creates an environment where the athletes can thrive. They live our culture on and off the field, which will shine during times of adversity."

This story was posted on 2023-02-09 16:05:35
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