The Male High School softball team started the season as the favorite to win its fifth straight Seventh Region championship but will be without one of its star players for at least another month.
Senior pitcher Olivia Suski, a Murray State signee, recently had surgery to repair a ligament in her right (pitching) arm and will be out at least until the end of April.
Suski was 22-7 with a 2.07 ERA last season and also batted .313 with five home runs and 25 RBIs.
“We feel pretty good that we’ll have her back and conditioned so that she’ll be able to give us some good innings in the postseason,” Male coach Josh Bloomer said.
Meanwhile, Bloomer has 12 players with extensive varsity experience and his Bulldogs are No. 4 in the state in the Kentucky Softball Coaches Association’s preseason Top 25. Male finished 31-10 last season and tied for fifth place in the state tournament.
Along with Suski, senior catcher Dani Walls (Murray State), senior third baseman Bayleigh Masterson (Berry) and senior first baseman Brevin Wyman (Georgetown) have signed to play in college. Junior outfielder Jenna Howell is another player to watch.
Freshman left-hander Jaelyn Sanders will get the majority of time in the pitching circle with Suski out. Eighth-grader Lauren Pelton will back up Sanders.
“I think Sanders is probably the second-best pitcher in the region (behind Suski),” Bloomer said. “She’s really starting to mature and gain some confidence.”
Bloomer said Male is the team to beat in the Seventh Region and should be in contention for the title if it gets to the state tournament.
“We’re good, and we’re not going to shy away from it,” Bloomer said. “But we’re really focused on not getting caught up in the end-game goal and enjoying the journey. This is a good group that’s really fun to be around.”
Here’s a look at other Louisville-area teams (note: several schools did not respond to requests for information):
Beth Haven (2-8-2 last season) will be led by the battery of eighth-grade pitcher Bethany Houchins and senior catcher Lexi Beard.
No. 9 Bullitt East (23-5) lost several starters from last season but can build around junior pitcher Taylor Roby (Louisville commit), senior shortstop Lindsay Renneisen (Evansville signee) and senior first baseman Hannah Dahl. Roby was 23-5 with a 1.15 ERA last season and also batted .590 with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs.
No. 10 Butler (25-7-1) has five starters back, led by senior pitcher/shortstop Hailey Whitmer (Northern Kentucky University signee), senior pitcher/shortstop Annabelle Ramirez (Lindsey Wilson signee) and senior catcher Faith Harris (Cincinnati Christian signee).
Fairdale (9-12) will be led by sophomore Jaylin Johnstone, who plays multiple positions and was named the team’s MVP as a freshman last season. Junior Katie Brewer, sophomores Sky Lee Keown and Katie Lane and freshman Brooke Vowels are other top players.
Fern Creek (15-20) will be led by senior infielder Kaci Franklin (Spalding commit), who batted .278 last year with a team-high 22 RBIs. Senior pitcher/shortstop Sierra Conforti and junior pitcher Julia Smith are other players to watch.
No. 19 Holy Cross (29-12-1) is the defending regional champion and has won back-to-back All “A” Classic state titles. The Cougars will be led by a quartet of stars in seniors Kameron Bowling (Transylvania commit), Jennifer Peffley (Spalding commit) and Ally Klein and junior Dakota Young (Campbellsville commit). Peffley was the region’s Player of the Year last season after batting .550.
Jeffersontown (14-21) has just one senior on its roster in Kayla Powell. Juniors Savannah Brinley and Sarah Durbin and sophomore Samantha Cook are other leaders. Freshman Kyleigh Koenig and eighth-grader Olivia Downs will share pitching duties.
No. 17 Mercy (18-16) has a trio of players who have committed to colleges in seniors Melissa Collins (Centre) and Jordyn Sanders (Campbellsville) and junior Lexi Ray (Tennessee-Martin). Seniors Abby Wilder and Amber Reed and junior Lexy Wright are other top players.
Pleasure Ridge Park (11-17) looks to improve behind senior shortstop Becca Anderson, junior catcher Rosie Sullivan and sophomore pitcher Makenzie Luckett.
Valley (5-11) will be led by senior utility player Jasmine Andrews, senior catcher Danielle Grimes and senior newcomer Tiffany Brooks.
Western (0-11) has lost 27 straight games dating to 2014, but first-year coach Brandon Clemmons is looking for a turnaround behind junior shortstop D’Essence Glenn and junior pitcher Destany Ashley.
No. 25 Assumption (15-18) will rely on a powerful offense led by junior shortstop Jordan Ridge (.357), sophomore infielder Braxton Downs (.309), sophomore outfielder Maggie Metzger (.385) and senior outfielder Sarah Metzger (.250). The Rockets have a young pitching staff led by freshman Caroline Weickel and sophomore Ashton Dowdy.
Atherton (16-13) lost just one starter from last season’s team that won the 27th District Tournament. The Rebels’ leaders include seniors Hannah Greenwell, Jaycee Head, Kinley Mitchell and Allison Weihe.
No. 8 Ballard (25-9-2) is led by a pair of seniors who have signed to play in college – outfielder Catie Barber (.392, Louisville) and third baseman Skyelar Houston (.386, Georgetown). Junior pitcher/first baseman Shelby Kelley (.425 batting average, 1.45 ERA, Belmont commit) and freshman shortstop Allie Skaggs (.420) are other top players.
Brown (7-6) is hoping to grow its program under second-year coach Suzannah Parrish.
Christian Academy (8-17) hopes to improve behind a pair of underclassmen who have committed to Butler University – junior pitcher/shortstop Sarah Ratterman (.418, 11 doubles, six triples) and sophomore pitcher/third baseman Loren Simpson (.415, eight doubles, seven triples). Center fielder Elizabeth Ashley (.333) and first baseman Lynley Clay (.310) are senior leaders.
Eastern (21-18) finished as the regional runner-up last year for the fifth time in the past nine seasons. Coach Dean Taylor expects the Eagles to be strong defensively behind a trio of seniors – center fielder Peyton Mills, first baseman Morgan Willoughby and left fielder Meagan McVicker. Juniors Brittany Ernst, Alana Fullen and MacKenzie Heareth will share the pitching duties.
Kentucky Country Day (3-6) will be led by junior shortstop/outfielder Emily Minor and freshman first baseman Samantha Holbrook.
Manual (21-9) is looking to replace seven starters lost to graduation and will be led by junior infielder Gracie Pounders and sophomore outfielder Meryck Hardley.
Portland Christian (8-5-1) will lean on senior pitcher Mady Williams, junior shortstop Lydia Cyrus, junior first baseman Grace Steele and junior catcher Sydney Haynes.
Presentation (21-15) has a new coach in Matt Meagher, who will lean on a pair of strong seniors in catcher Abby Shipley (Dartmouth commit) and infielder Ashley Swearingen (Hanover commit).
Sacred Heart (9-19) should improve behind a quartet of seniors in Emma Burnett, Claire Ely, Kelly McCauley and Alyssa Meurer. Junior Jessica Smith and sophomore Alley Puckett are top underclassmen.
Waggener (2-7) hopes to improve behind seniors Yolette Charles and Takeyiah Bell and juniors Cassy Cothren and Kelli Rice.
Collins (23-10-1) has just five combined juniors and seniors on the roster. Junior Paige Oldham and sophomore Carson Murray are the top pitchers.
Oldham County (26-11-1) will be led by senior center fielder Payton Hamm (Bowling Green State signee), senior third baseman Haley Springer (Trine University signee) and junior second baseman Taylor Sheller (Tennessee-Martin commit).
Shelby County (21-16) was the regional runner-up to Anderson County last year but does not have a senior on the roster this season. Junior shortstop Hannah Webb (Bellarmine commit), junior infielder Kaitlynn Cox and sophomore catcher Elizabeth Ivers are the leaders.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.
KENTUCKY SOFTBALL COACHES ASSOCIATION PRESEASON RANKINGS
Statewide Top 25 (first-place votes in parentheses): 1. Scott County (17), 2. Madisonville-North Hopkins (3), 3. McCracken County (6), 4. Male, 5. Woodford County (1), 6. East Carter, 7. Daviess County, 8. Ballard, 9. Bullitt East, 10. Butler, 11. Christian County, 12. Anderson County, 13. Owensboro Catholic, 14. Warren East, 15. East Jessamine, 16. Central Hardin, 17. Mercy, 18. South Warren, 19. Louisville Holy Cross, 20. North Laurel, 21. Union County, 22. Apollo, 23. Marshall County, 24. Ashland Blazer, 25. Assumption.
Statewide top 30 seniors: 1. Kaylee Tow (Madisonville-North Hopkins), 2. Mallory Peyton (Madisonville-North Hopkins), 3. Bailey Curry (Anderson County), 4. Lauren Johnson (Daviess County), 5. Olivia Suski (Male), 6. Kendall Smith (Warren East), 7. Bethany Todd (Woodford County), 8. Kalli Harris (McCracken County), 9. Halie Fain (Scott County), 10. Caitlin Karo (Woodford County), 11. Hailey Whitmer (Butler), 12. Ariel Dailey (Woodford County), 13. Taylor Poindexter (McCracken County), 14. Ryley Whitney (Allen County-Scottsville), 15. Jennifer Peffley (Louisville Holy Cross), 16. McKinely Rush (Boyle County), 17. Peyton Smothers (Marshall County), 18. CeCe Wittry (Scott County), 19. Macey Hale (Muhlenberg County), 20. Mackenzie Short (Owensboro Catholic), 21. Katelyn Smith (Greenwood), 22. Kyla Simpson (Woodford County), 23. Payton Hamm (Oldham County), 24. Ally Klein (Louisville Holy Cross), 25. Paige Hill (Daviess County), 26. Madison Shields (Middlesboro), 27. Mahala Saylor (Rockcastle County), 28. Jordan Thomas (Bethlehem), 29. Whitney Bean (Madisonville-North Hopkins), 30. Sara Heieneman (Russell).
Sixth Region top 10 teams: 1. Holy Cross, 2. Butler, 3. Bullitt East, 4. (tie) North Bullitt, Fern Creek; 6. Pleasure Ridge Park, 7. Mercy, 8. Fairdale, 9. Southern, 10. Bullitt Central.
Sixth Region top 10 players: 1. Annabelle Ramirez (Butler), 2. Kameron Bowling (Holy Cross), 3. Jennifer Peffley (Holy Cross), 4. Taylor Roby (Bullitt East), 5. Hailey Whitmer (Butler), 6. Ally Klein (Holy Cross), 7. Hannah Dahl (Bullitt East), 8. Faith Harris (Butler), 9. Dakota Young (Holy Cross), 10. Lindsay Renneisen (Bullitt East).
Seventh Region top 10 teams: 1. Male, 2. Ballard, 3. Eastern, 4. Manual, 5. Assumption, 6. Christian Academy, 7. Atherton, 8. Sacred Heart, 9. Presentation, 10. Seneca.
Seventh Region top 10 players: 1. Olivia Suski (Male), 2. Skyelar Houston (Ballard), 3. Catie Barber (Ballard), 4. Dani Walls (Male), 5. Allie Skaggs (Ballard), 6. Shelby Kelley (Ballard), 7. Jordan Ridge (Assumption), 8. Abby Shipley (Presentation), 9. Bayleigh Masterson (Male), 10. Gracie Pounders (Manual).
Eighth Region top 10 teams: 1. Oldham County, 2. Anderson County, 3. (tie) Spencer County, Shelby County, 5. Collins, 6. Henry County, 7. (tie) North Oldham, Simon Kenton; 9. Walton-Verona; 10. South Oldham.
Eighth Region top 10 players: 1. Bailey Curry (Anderson County), 2, Taylor Sheller (Oldham County), 3. Payton Hamm (Oldham County), 4. Hannah Webb (Shelby County), 5. Ally Alexander (Spencer County), 6. Paige Oldham (Collins), 7. Macy Krohman (Simon Kenton), 8. Elisabeth Huckleberry (Spencer County), 9. Elizabeth Ivers (Shelby County), 10. Mikayla Benson (South Oldham).
Note: Rankings are compiled by KSCA during preseason. Some players may no longer be members of their teams.