By Dalton Ray–
Before the season started, softball coach Sandy Pearsall said one of the players that stood out to her during the offseason was freshman Caitlin Ferguson. Pointing to her athleticism and work ethic, Pearsall said she expected Ferguson to see the field, but she wasn’t sure how much.
Now halfway through the season, Ferguson has started 23 games of her 27 games played.
Growing up in Versailles, Kentucky, the Woodford County graduate fell in love with the campus and facilities at U of L. Aiming for a school that she could succeed and compete at, Ferguson chose to attend Louisville.
Growing up 13 miles away from Lexington, Ferguson caught flack from friends and family back home.
“I definitely got some (backlash). Where I’m from it’s die hard UK,” Ferguson said. “A lot of people came to my signing and they’re really supportive. They just like to give me a hard time.”
During the fall, Ferguson felt the challenge of being student-athlete in college, but the field is where she gained comfort.
“In the beginning, I was really homesick,” Ferguson said. “Softball has been a consistent part for me. I was always comfortable going to practice and it was the only thing really familiar to me.”
Breezing into her second semester, those days are long gone.
“Now I’ve got the hang of things and I loaded up my schedule a little more, I like it a lot,” Ferguson said. “I’m more comfortable with the area. I don’t have to use a GPS to get around anymore. The team is great and we’ve really bonded.”
Latching on to an upperclassman is crucial for any incoming freshman to have a sense of guidance. For Ferguson, that person is Jenna Jordan. While Ferguson admits it wasn’t who she said expected to click with, two are always seen together now.
Recording a lot of playing time as a true freshman can be difficult. Not everyone experiences it, so not everyone can offer up the right advice. Senior captain Maryssa Becker has in nearly 200 career games and started 47 in her freshman year. Along with Jordan, Becker has taken Ferguson under her wing.
“I look up to (Becker), she is so good. She knows the mental part of softball and that’s what I sometimes freak out about,” Ferguson said. “She always tells me, ‘You’re fine, we all have confidence in you.’ She tells me to keep it simple and it really helps.”
Ferguson said the big stage that is Louisville softball has thrown her off her game at the beginning of the season.
“Our first home tournament, I was freaking out. I couldn’t field (the ball) and I don’t know what was going on,” Ferguson said. “I looked up into the stands and I’ve never played in front of that many people before. That and the expectations just got to me.”
It hasn’t all been challenging for Ferguson, though. In the same tournament, Ferguson hit a walk-off two-RBI single against Green Bay. While it may have been a run rule walk-off, the moment is one of Ferguson’s favorites of the year.
For Ferguson, the adjustment to the college game and higher level athletes is coming easier than expected. The freshman batting .351 with 17 RBIs, both placing her third on the team. She is tied for first on the team with seven doubles and hit her first home run against Notre Dame on April 1.
Ferguson said that she takes critics from Pearsall very well and the only time she is worried is when Pearsall says nothing. At the plate, Pearsall is changing Ferguson into a different player.
“When I came here, I had the mentality of ‘You’re small, you can’t hit it far.’ So I was trying to overcompensate by hitting it hard every time,” Ferguson said. “Because of coach, I’ve focused on base hits. Getting ground balls and being aggressive, that’s really helped me.”
Defense comes naturally to Ferguson, but at the plate, she is still adjusting.
Starting so many games this season is something Ferguson anticipated, but caught her a little off-guard when it happened so quickly.
“When I came here, I had the mindset of, ‘I’m going to beat someone out and earn a spot.’ It just so happened that (Sydney) Melton got hurt and I was given this opportunity,” Ferguson said. “Over the past four weekends, I’ve really embraced it and been playing to win.”
Away from softball, Ferguson spends most of her time with teammates. Between going to five-dollar Tuesday movies, Dairy Kastle or Cherokee Park to hike, Ferguson enjoys staying active.
Entering college, the shortstop thought she was going to a dual-sport athlete. Playing varsity basketball since seventh grade, Ferguson is a part of the 1,000-point club at her high school.
While fans won’t be seeing her at the KFC Yum! Center, they can catch her at Ulmer Stadium making a big impact for years to come.
Photo by Laurel Slaughter / The Louisville Cardinal