TUCSON - Following a scandal that resulted in the firing of Louisiana-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief, two impact transfers are headed to Hillenbrand Stadium.
Two-time All-American Aleah Craighton, and reining Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Alyssa Denham will transfer from Louisiana Lafayette to play softball for head coach Mike Candrea. Craighton, a senior outfielder, and Denham, a sophomore right handed pitcher, will be eligible for the 2018 season.
"We're thrilled to welcome both Aleah Craighton and Alyssa Denham to our team and are excited that they're Wildcats," said head coach Mike Candrea. "Both of them have a proven track record of success at the highest level. The key now is to get these two new pieces to fit with what we have now."
Craighton will complete her collegiate career at Arizona after a decorated three years at Louisiana Lafayette. The centerfielder was a first-team All-American in 2017, a season in which she hit .345 with 18 home runs and 53 RBI with a .779 slugging percentage, and a second-team All-American in 2016 when shit hit a career-best .378 with 18 homers, 12 doubles and an .851 slugging percentage. The Prairieville, Louisiana native was a two-time first-team all-conference and all-region performer with Ragin Cajuns. She hit .365 over 164 games at ULL with 48 career homers and 27 doubles.
"Aleah comes to Arizona after three very successful seasons at Louisiana Lafayette and we're excited for her to finish her career a Wildcat," said Candrea. "Aleah is a very athletic outfielder that hits with power and someone who has played this game at a very high level."
Denham has the potential to fill the starting pitching spot left vacant by the graduating Danielle O'Toole. In one season at ULL, Denham went 15-2 with a 2.27 ERA over 28 appearances in 2017 and was named Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year. The 6-2 righty was one of 25 finalists for the 2017 NFCA Division I Freshman of the Year along with now teammates Jessie Harper, Dejah Mulipola and Alyssa Palomino. The Alvin, Texas native had victories over a pair of top-five teams, No. 4 Alabama and No. 4 Texas A&M; her two-hit shutout in the former earned her USA Softball Pitcher of the Week honors. Denham struck out 80 batters over 129.2 innings and held opponents to a .205 batting average.
"Alyssa had a very good year last year," said Candrea. "I'm excited to see what she does not only this year but moving forward throughout the remainder of her career. She's a great addition to our pitching staff."
The two helped lead Louisiana Lafayette to a 47-8 (23-1 Sun Belt) season and NCAA Regional appearance in 2017. They'll now join the Wildcats, who went 52-9 (18-6 Pac-12) with an NCAA Super Regional appearance last season. They join Purdue transfer Gina Snyder as well as UA's eight-player freshman class, a recruiting class that was ranked sixth by FloSoftball on signing day in 2016. Craighton and Denham will begin their Wildcat career on Feb. 9 at the Kajikawa Classic.