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WKU softball prepares for 2024 campaign

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WKU Softball hit a few home runs ahead of the first pitch in the 2024 season.

Before players could step foot in the diamond to kick off the season, the Hilltoppers were ranked second behind Liberty in the Conference-USA Softball Preseason Poll. 

The Hilltoppers closed the 2023 season with a fifth place finish in C-USA. The team had an overall record of 30-24 and a 14-9 mark in conference play.

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WKU also had three players bestowed with C-USA preseason honors. 

Fifth year infielder TJ Webster, fifth year infielder Taylor Sanders and fifth year pitcher Katie Gardner were all named to C-USA’s Preseason All-Conference team.

Webster holds 177 consecutive starts, the most consecutive starts in the program’s history. In the 2023 season, she grabbed 17 stolen bases and held a .338 batting average.

Sanders picked up 39 RBI’s and nine home runs before ending the 2023 season early due to an injury. She posted a slash line of .344/.471/.688. During the 2023 season, Sanders also won C-USA Offensive Player of the Week twice.

Additionally, Gardner compiled 189 strikeouts in the 2023 season making her the C-USA strikeout leader. The right-hander also pitched three complete games and three shutouts during the 2023 season.

The Hilltoppers bring many veterans back with two seniors and five fifth year seniors.

Fans will also see some new faces as freshman utility player Ava Lunsford, freshman infielder Morgan Sharpe, freshman utility and pitcher Annie White, freshman pitcher Rylan Smith, freshman outfielder Kendle White and freshman infielder Becca Campbell all joined the roster.

Despite the clash of the classes, WKU has their eyes set on a winning season.

“I feel like we have definitely grown a lot,” Gardner said during WKU Softball’s media day. “Having new transfers and a new freshman class, I feel like all have pretty much bonded well and I think that will show on the field.”

Furthermore, former WKU softball player and current Head Coach Amy Tudor seeks her sixth title as head coach. She currently has one regular season win, two tournament wins and two East Division wins.

Within WKU’s 2024 schedule are a few big name opponents such as Kansas, Ole Miss and Kentucky.

The Hilltoppers are also set to face Indiana on March 5. The Hoosiers finished second in the Big 10 conference in the 2023 season.

On Feb. 27, WKU will take on the University of Louisville who closed the 2023 season placing fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Although C-USA welcomed Jacksonville State, New Mexico State and Liberty as new competitors in the 2023-2024 academic year, the Lady Toppers see this as an opportunity to prove themselves.

“Conference USA is a really gritty conference in my opinion… It’s going to be a dog fight for sure. I like that we have good competition in our conference,” Sanders said. “It challenges us to get ready for the post season. I’m really excited about the changes.” 

WKU will face Missouri State in Clearwater, Florida on Feb. 9 at 12p.m. CST in the NFCA Leadoff Classic to begin their season. Their home opener is set to be against Detroit Mercy on Feb. 23 to kick off the WKU Hilltopper Classic.

Sports reporter Molly St. Clair can be reached at [email protected].

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