VIDEO: KaraLynne Levi Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – The following is the first part in a three-part series chronicling Carson-Newman's softball's positions for 2018. Catcher KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) helps analyze the Eagles' battery.
Pitcher is the only position on the field where Carson-Newman loses a body from last year. All-Conference hurler Alli Webster graduated after a career featuring the top two single-game strikeout totals in C-N history.
However, the Eagles return the reigning SAC Freshman of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and Tournament MVP in Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.). The Eagles also add in two freshman arms in Morgan Crawford (Chickamauga, Ga.) and Valerie Seay (Cross Plains, Tenn.).
"We definitely miss Alli and her authority," Levi said. "But all our pitchers are versatile. They bring different things to the table that will let us do different things against different lineups. Lacie brings her command, speed and movement. Morgan throws it so hard and can place the ball well. Then Val can spin the ball and keep it low in the zone."
Rinus earned All-America honors a year ago. She joined Heather Randolph (1995), Zoe Heim (2008) and Carol Zachary (1989-1991) as pitchers to earn All-America honors for the Eagles.
Rinus added the All-America accolade to all-region and region Pitcher of the Year plaudits in a prolific year where she has already stuffed her trophy case with placards for SAC Freshman of the Year, SAC Pitcher of the Year and SAC Tournament MVP. She is the first player in league history to win all three of those awards in the same season.
The Murfreesboro, Tenn.-native led the conference in strikeouts (232), batting average against (.205), earned run average (1.56) and wins (26). She also led the league in shutouts, overtaking first place with back-to-back scoreless outings to clinch C-N the SAC tournament title.
Crawford was a three-sport star at Ridgeland High School where she also played basketball and ran track in addition to her exploits on the softball diamond. She batted .443 her junior year with five doubles and a county-best 11 dingers. In the circle, she went 13-3 with three saves. She had 60 strikeouts across 101 innings and a 1.59 ERA. Crawford was named 6-AAAA All-Region first team twice and was named the region pitcher of the year her junior season. She helped Ridgeland to a 2016 Region championships, two Sweet 16s and one Elite Eight.
Meanwhile, Seay was named district MVP and the Robertson County Pitcher of the Year as a junior. She has helped ERHS to a pair of district titles and a region championship as a junior.
Behind the plate, Levi returns after earning all-conference honors last year. The Eagles have depth at the position too with Cheyenne Boles (Knoxville, Tenn.). The Eagles' primary designated player carries a big bat and has catching experience as well.
Levi indicated she's ready to take it to another level after a breakout freshman campaign.
"It's been about practice for me and attention to detail," Levi said. "I've worked on framing and footwork, of course. But I've really wanted to work on my assertiveness and communication with both the pitching staff and the coaches. It's about being a sophomore. There's expectations now. I'm not a freshman anymore. Coach expects more and for me to take control of the defense."
Levi instantly transformed herself into one of the best defensive catchers in the conference. Levi threw out 15 runners who tried to steal on her, the most of any catcher in the Southeast Region. She caught 46 percent of runners who have tried to steal on her, also the top mark among catchers in the Southeast.
She and pitcher Lacie Rinus combined to throw out an absurd 73 percent of runners who attempted to steal on that battery in particular. Levi only made one error behind the plate. Her .997 fielding percentage was the highest among players in the conference with more than 100 total chances. At the plate, Levi hit .318 with 12 doubles, a triple and two dingers. The 12 doubles are the second most on the team.
Meanwhile, Boles batted .305 for the year with 51 appearances and 46 starts as a designated player, outfielder, catcher and third baseman.
She tallied 39 hits in 128 at bats with 25 RBI. She pounded out five doubles and three home runs. Boles was one of just two Eagles in 2017 to hit two homers in one game. She did so against Benedict (2/17).
That game, Boles collected 11 total bases, the second most in a single game in Carson-Newman history.
Across all the positions she played, Boles was error free.
Levi said she loves the competition the Eagles have at all positions.
"Injuries happen," Levi said. "You don't want people to get comfortable. It's nice having that depth because it's always pushing us to do better."
Carson-Newman softball's position previews continue Sunday with the infield.