After a 22-26 record last season, the Sun Devil softball squad needed reinforcements going into the 2024 season. They quickly got to work, adding six transfer athletes from all over the country.
Multiple loose ends were tied as the Sun Devils added some infield support with Ayden Allen, a sophomore infielder from the University of Houston, and Alesia Denby, a graduate student from Fresno State University.
Head coach Megan Bartlett recruited the 2023 Mountain West Player of the Year Kelsey Hall, a graduate student outfielder from Boise State University. Audrey LeClair, a graduate student utility player from the University of Michigan, Makenzie Macfarlane, a graduate student catcher from Utah State University, and Tanya Windle, a sophomore outfielder from Utah Tech University rounded out the new adds for the 2024 squad.
All six of these players look to provide a spark to the Arizona State softball team which is looking to bounce back from one of the worst seasons in team history.
During her 2023 campaign at Boise State University, Hall slashed .385/.504/.854 with 37 hits, 39 runs, and 11 home runs, and earned Mountain West Player of the Year thanks to her incredible stats. Even though she has these impressive stats from last season, as well as being ranked number 60 in D1 softball’s preseason top 100 players, she does not feel any extra pressure to fill the holes left after last season.
"There's obviously an expectation from these coaches," Hall said. "They want to turn this program around from where we ended last year. So it's not like I'm coming here to be a cheerleader by any means, but at the same time, it isn't necessarily a pressure because my thought process is very process-oriented. I tore my ACL a couple of years ago so that's where I've really had my transition of mindset. And so there's no added pressure because everyone here wants Kelsey Hall to succeed."
Hall is looking forward to being able to play her former team, Boise State, on the first weekend of the season.
Last year, during her time at the University of Houston, Allen saw little time in the field, with only three at-bats across four games played. But this Prosper, Texas native has already shown off her power during the fall season by hitting two home runs in two at-bats in her first inning as a Sun Devil.
Not only does she have pop at the plate, she is also an adaptive player who can play whatever position she is told to.
"I would say my best skill is being able to play anywhere on the field," Allen said. "Growing up, I was always taught to play different positions, be whatever the team needed, so that's definitely helped me become a better softball player."
During her 2023 season at Fresno State, Denby was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, and the team hopes she is able to bring her defensive prowess to Tempe and help a team that struggled defensively last season.
"Lili is literally a dream to coach," Bartlett said. "She is not a super flashy player. She doesn't do a ton of talking, but she's got an incredibly sure glove, very good range, and a super accurate arm. She understands timing and hops and how to pick them."
Along with her defensive skills she hopes to bring her big hitter abilities to a Sun Devil team that struggled to get much done offensively last year.
During her last two seasons at the University of Michigan, this Phoenix native put up impressive contact and speed numbers, something that will be a huge addition to this year’s Sun Devil squad.
"She's a lefty triple threat," Bartlett said. "She can do everything from the left side, she can run, she can pick apart defenses. Great vision on the basis. I mean, Audrey will certainly help make this offense better."
Along with her skill on the field, LeClair brings positive energy to the team that has many new players, and that has meshed so well in a few month's time.
"She is one of my favorite (players)," Bartlett said. "She's certainly going to get time behind the dish. I feel bad for people who think they can steal because she is highly efficient. She puts the ball on the money and has good overhand arm strength. We really enjoyed Makenzie. She's a special kid."
Along with having a great personality that her coaches and teammates enjoy, Macfarlane is a great catcher. Last year, she ranked third in the nation with 20 runners thrown out in 44 games played.
According to her coach, Windle has some of the best hand-eye coordination skills in the country. She is able to hit any and all types of pitches she sees, and along with being a good hitter, she is a very fast runner, something that leads to the coaches seeing her as a great choice to be a leadoff hitter.
For this Phoenix area native, being able to play at ASU has been her dream since she started playing softball and the first college camp she attended was at Arizona State.
"My favorite thing honestly is the field and these girls," Windle said. "Everything about being a Sun Devil is just amazing, and I wouldn't trade it for the world."
While these transfers have come from many different universities across the country, they all have the same goal: The World Series in Oklahoma City.
Edited by Vinny DeAngelis, Alysa Horton and Caera Learmonth.