By Matt Bradshaw —

This season, softball features a potent mix of experience and young talent with an underclass-heavy team. Celene Funke stands out as one of Louisville’s most distinguished sophomores, pointing to a bright future ahead for No. 33.

“Funke is a tremendous athlete,” head coach Sandy Pearsall said. “She’s going to be an incredible player as she continues to grow in this program.”

Funke hails from Carmel, Indiana, where she played softball for four years at Carmel High School. She helped the Greyhounds to back-to-back MIC titles and garnered a 2016 All-State selection as team captain her senior year.

During her freshman season with the Cardinals, Funke started twice and played in 33 games overall.

“She has great speed and power,” Pearsall said. “We just had to harness that, and she had to learn the game more.”

Funke made her time count as a pinch-runner with 12 runs scored and three stolen bases.

“I really learned my role last year and accepted being a pinch runner,” Funke said. “I took that full-force.”

Funke’s stealing ability has flowered her sophomore year, as she leads the Cards with 13 total.

“She’s certainly a huge threat on the bases with her speed,” Pearsall said.

In addition, Funke has boosted her offensive performance. After switching from the right side of the plate to the left, she is now second on the team in batting average (.346), runs scored (24) and hits (37).

“This past summer and fall, I worked my butt off to get where I am now,” Funke said. “Switching from the right side to the left was big, but I was able to make the adjustment.”

Pearsall usually places Funke at the bottom of the Louisville lineup as the anchor. With the team’s fourth best on-base percentage, her speed and ability to get on base are crucial.

“It’s a little more pressure, but I try not to think about it,” Funke said. “I know my team has my back, just like I have theirs. We’re a big family.”

After defeating Virginia 14-7 on April 6, Louisville moves to 5-5 in ACC play. The Cardinals play the Cavaliers two more times at home before a seven-game road trip.

“We definitely need to sweep this weekend and move up in the ACC standings,” Funke said. “Then we need to travel well and steal some games while we’re out there.”

You can follow Matt Bradshaw on Twitter @bradmatt8.

Photo by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal