Softball roster breakdown: 2021 spring season

WKU short stop TJ Webster runs down the 3rd baseline to score the 11th run of the game. WKU defeated ISU 12-1 in the championship round of the spring fling tournament on March 1, 2020 at WKU Softball Complex.

Jake Moore

With the 2021 WKU Softball season fast approaching, below is a breakdown of head coach Amy Tudor’s talented and hungry squad that will be attempting to improve upon their stellar 20-5 record from 2020.

The program opens play tomorrow at the Chattanooga Challenge in Tennessee. WKU will play in five games before hosting the Hilltopper Classic next weekend. 

The first pitch tomorrow is at 10 a.m. against Kennesaw State. Click here for the full schedule

P Kelsey Aikey, Redshirt Senior, #12 from Cedar Falls, Iowa

Aikey is the most accomplished player on the roster and looks to anchor an already deep pitching staff throughout the upcoming season. Aikey was ranked 23rd on D1Softball’s Top-100 Pitchers List following the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the only Conference-USA representative named on said list. 

She was named Conference USA’s Pitcher of the Week two times (Feb. 24 and March 9) in five weeks for a total of six career Pitcher of the Week awards across her career. Aikey posted a 1.86 ERA across 79.0 innings in 2020 with a 10-3 record along with seven complete games and three saves. 

Opponents could only manage a measly .204 average against her over the course of the year while she racked up 116 strikeouts against just 33 walks. Aikey’s 10.3 strikeouts per game put her 21st in the nation and she ended the year only 100 strikeouts away (462) from tying WKU alum Emily Rousseau for most overall (562).

OF Paige Carter, Redshirt Senior, #26 from Crown Point, IN

Carter did it all for the Hilltoppers last year, starting all 25 games between both the outfield and designated player positions. Carter hit .333 on the season with 27 hits including five doubles and five home runs to go along with 19 RBI and 18 runs scored while slashing .333/.375/.580, only striking out seven times all year. 

Carter put together seven multi-hit games including a three-hit outing in WKU’s win over Ohio on Feb. 14, tying the WKU single-game record with four runs scored in that same game. That wasn’t only the record Carter tied, as she also matched a school-record two doubles in one game in WKU’s contest against Illinois State on March 1.

C Kendall Smith, Redshirt Junior, #2 from Bowling Green, KY

Smith started all 25 games last season, 24 at catcher and one at third base. Smith hit five home runs on the year, tying the team’s high. Smith showed her impressive arm strength by catching 8-of-14 runners attempting to steal on her. Smith had a four-hit game against Ohio on Feb. 14.

UT Jordan Thomas, Redshirt Junior, #1 from Lebanon, KY

Thomas started all 25 of WKU’s games last season while hitting first in the lineup, drawing a team-high 20 walks in the process. Her walk percentage per game (.80) ranked 24th nationwide. Thomas also hit two home runs in WKU’s game against IUPUI on Feb. 28.

P Shelby Nunn, Redshirt Junior, #10 from Bowling Green, KY

Nunn is coming off a stellar 2020 season that saw her compile a 6-1 record while throwing for a Conference-USA best 1.15 ERA, ranking her 29th nationwide. Nunn also threw two shutouts and ranked 12th in the nation in walks allowed per seven innings (0.77).

IF Maddie Bowlds, Redshirt Junior, #28 from Utica, KY

Bowlds slashed .213/.302/.277 during her junior campaign and hit her lone home run of the season and second of her career in WKU’s final game of the season against UT Arlington on March 10. Bowlds put together a three-hit game during WKU’s extra-inning win at Troy on Feb. 8.

OF Maggie Trgo, Redshirt Junior, #20 from Lithia, FL

Trgo appeared in 12 games in 2020, mainly used as a pinch hitter but also starting one game in the outfield. Trgo recorded a hit, stole a base and scored a run against Indiana State on Feb. 21. Trgo compiled a .125 batting average, .300 on-base percentage, .125 slugging percentage, and 1.000 fielding percentage throughout the year. 

P/OF Kennedy Sullivan, Redshirt Sophomore, #4 from Georgetown, KY

Sullivan looks to impress after being named to Softball America’s 10 Mid-Major Players You Shouldn’t Overlook in 2021 List. Her 13.1 strikeouts per seven innings ranked second in the country. Sullivan notched a 2.26 ERA and pitched two complete-games, but her bat might be just as strong as her arm as she hit five home runs last season, two of which being grand slams. Sullivan also claimed an 11-game hitting streak, the team’s longest of the year.

OF Taylor Davis, Redshirt Sophomore, #6 from Huntsville, AL

Davis swung a heavy bat in 2020, notching a .467 on-base percentage while slugging .451. Her team-leading average (.437) put her 60th across the entire NCAA. Davis was also quick on the basepaths, going 15-for-17 in stolen base attempts. Davis also hit .477 with runners on base, a good measure of her hitting abilities in clutch moments.

UT Jordan Ridge, Redshirt Sophomore, #9 from Louisville, KY

Ridge appeared in four games in 2020, one at second base and three as a pinch runner. Expect to see Ridge more often in 2021.

IF Macy Murphy, Redshirt Sophomore, #22 from Murfreesboro, TN

Murphy appeared in three games for WKU in 2020, twice as a pinch hitter and once on defense at first base, drawing a walk in her lone plate appearance against IUPUI. Expect Murphy to get more playing time this year.

C/OF Princess Valencia, Redshirt Sophomore, #25 from Georgetown, KY

Valencia compiled a .250 batting average with five hits and three runs scored, drawing three walks and a sacrifice hit over the course of the year. Valencia’s season highlight came against Ball State on Feb. 22 when she recorded two hits and scored a run.

IF TJ Webster, Redshirt Freshman, #3 from Huntsville, AL

Webster started all 25 games at shortstop during her freshman campaign, hitting .317, stealing 9 of 10 bases while compiling a nine-game hitting streak.

P Katie Gardner, Redshirt Freshman, #5 from Bowling Green, KY

Gardner recorded three strikeouts in three appearances in her freshman campaign last season.

UT Madeline Rider, Redshirt Freshman, #7 from Harrisburg, IL

Rider didn’t see much playing time in 2020, but did record both her first hit and run scored as a Hilltopper in WKU’s win over Ohio on Feb. 14.

OF Brylee Hage, Redshirt Freshman, #11 from Nicholasville, KY

Hage made an immediate impact in her first season with WKU, hitting for a .419 batting average with 13 hits, one double and two triples. Hage was also a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts. She recorded a three-hit game against rival Middle Tennessee on March 7.

IF Taylor Sanders, Redshirt Freshman, #15 from Shelbyville, TN

Sanders started 21 games at third base last season, swatting .267 with 12 hits, two doubles, a triple and three home runs. Sanders was a perfect 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts and recorded nine putouts and 32 assists for a .932 fielding percentage. The highlight of Sander’s 2020 season came on Feb. 29 when she hit two home runs in a win against IUPUI.

P Kelsie Houchens, True Freshman, #19 from Louisville, KY

Houchens is set to make her anticipated collegiate debut this year after an accomplished high school career. Houchens recorded 173 strikeouts, an 0.57 ERA and a 25-0 record her junior campaign at Louisville’s Male High School, receiving First Team NFCA All-Region, Region 7 All-Tournament Team and State All-Tournament honors.

IF Kennedy Foote, True Freshman, #21 from Alabaster, AL

Foote is another true freshman primed to make her debut this year. Foote played her prep ball at Thompson High School where she was given All-Area, All-County, All-Region and All-State honors in her first three high school seasons.

Softball beat reporter Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.