Thursday, October 16, 2014

Caralisa Connell Steps Into Justin's World

The past two seasons, the same name has shown up in my conference forecasts that include the Louisville Cardinals. Caralisa Connell was a fixture on the pitching staff in Louisville from the day she set foot in the circle and has left some big shoes to fill for the Cardinals staff this season.
Caralisa w/ the 2014 American Conference Championship
trophy // Photo cred

An All-Big-East selection in the three seasons she and the Cardinals were in that conference, Caralisa recorded sixty-four wins and only thirteen losses during that time. A no-hitter against Memphis in her sophomore year highlighted.

In 2014, the Cardinals' first season in the American conference (a year in which they also took home the conference's tournament championship trophy), Caralisa's workload diminished a bit, though she still averaged fewer than a hit an inning and opponents hit just .242 against her.

The daughter of a former two-sport athlete who played baseball and football at Vanderbilt, Caralisa comes from an extremely-athletic family - her uncle also played baseball for an SEC school, the UGA Bulldogs.

You can follow Caralisa on Twitter @Caralisa13.

How did you get your start playing softball?
My dad used to coach college prospect baseball when I was growing up so I was always on a field somewhere watching. When I got to the age to play, I started asking him when he was going to coach me so he signed me up for a coach pitch league and then I just loved the sport!

Why did you choose Louisville as your “spot” to continue your education and play college ball?
I chose Louisville because, from the moment I walked on campus, it was somewhere I could see myself playing. I wanted to be a part of a program that was on the up and had a chance to make it to the top. One of the things that I was most impressed with on my visit though was the obvious effort that Tom Jurich and the athletic department was putting into women's athletics. So many schools only have women’s sports because Title IX requires them but Louisville truly supports its women’s sports and it shows.

How did softball become your sport?
I was always into athletics as a child and played anything I could. I played everything from soccer to track and field to volleyball. The two sports that became a mainstay for me, though, were basketball and softball. Ultimately I made the decision to pursue a scholarship for softball because I was better at it and because I wasn’t tall enough to play post in college basketball and hated playing guard.

What is your favorite memory from your career?
I think my favorite memory would be beating Oklahoma on their field the year they went on to win the national championship. It was just a huge win for our program and it really gave us that moment when we realized we were there, ready to compete with the top programs.

If you had the opportunity to go back in time and relive or redo one moment or one play, when would you go back to?
I would choose to relive winning the Big East Championship over Notre Dame my sophomore year. That entire season was incredible to a part of. At the end of the regular season, we had only lost 3 games and we just knew we were going to win every game. We ended up winning the game on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 8th and the feeling was unbelievable.

Despite some very talented and even highly-ranked teams, the Cardinals didn’t make it out of regionals the past three seasons. How does or did it affect the team’s mindset to know that y’all are one of the better teams in the country, yet when it comes to the postseason tournament, there’s a humongous roadblock?
My sophomore year was the first year we really expected to make it out of the Regional tournament and after getting our bracket, we quickly realized that we were in one of the toughest regionals in the tournament. Losing the winner’s bracket final game to Michigan, especially because it was in extra innings after a very questionable call, was demoralizing for us. We went in the next day hoping for the best but it is very tough to beat a team twice in a day especially when it is a team as rich in history and tradition as Michigan. After that, there was just a different feel whenever we got to the NCAA tournament. We lost our sense of fun and started pushing too hard to win. As soon as we started trying not to lose, it took away our chances to win. The program needs one win on that Saturday game to put it in a position to be consistently in Super’s of the World Series.

With your collegiate playing career now done, what are your plans for the future? Do you plan to stay involved with the game in some way, perhaps coaching at some level?
Now that I’m done playing, I am attending law school at Belmont University in Nashville. Law school will be the next three years of my life and then after that I guess we will see! I am currently staying involved in softball by doing private lessons a couple times a week but I would love to coach at some point if I have the time.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.

If *you* could give up-and-coming young softballers one piece of advice, what would you say to them?
There is no shortcut to the top. If you want to get there, you have to start now and put in the work. Don’t expect to do the minimum and be the best.

My favorite question to wrap things up! Let’s say you were stranded on a deserted island, but were allowed to take three things with you. Boats and phones are off-limits. What would you take?
I would take a knife to help me make shelter and prepare food, a rope for many purposes, and my sister for company and help.

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