LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky softball program added four players during the 2016 early signing period, 10th-year head coach Rachel Lawson announced on Wednesday afternoon.
Pitcher Brace Baalman (Calhoun, Illinois), shortstop and utility player Lauren Johnson (Owensboro, Kentucky), infielder Mallory Peyton (Madisonville, Kentucky) and pitcher Bethany Todd (Woodford County, Kentucky) all signed with the Wildcats in the early signing window. The three athletes from the Bluegrass State and Illinois will look to contribute in the fall of 2017.
“I am excited to officially welcome our 2017 signing class to the Big Blue Nation,” Lawson said. “This class is special for so many reasons. All four athletes signing are versatile and will add speed, power and dominating to an already-strong lineup. In addition, their academic resume coupled with their work ethic, drive and character will uphold the program’s rich tradition of leadership and excellence both on and off the ball field.”
More info on the four signees can be found below.
Pitcher Grace Baalman joins the Wildcats out of Calhoun, Illinois. She was ranked No. 1 in her class academically and sports a high ACT score as well – which is a point of emphasis in UK’s recruiting philosophy. The 6’2” tri-sport athlete, has received All-State honors on the basketball court and All-Conference honors on the volleyball court. In the 2016 state championship semifinal game on the diamond, she set the single-game strikeout record with 39 strikeouts in 17 innings pitched. In 2016, Baalman led Calhoun High School to its second-straight Illinois state championship and set the single-season strikeout record with 589. She has been named First Team All-State and First Team All-Conference as well as Area Player of the Year all three years of high school. She was also named a MaxPrep All-American in 2016.
Lauren Johnson is one of three Kentucky natives to sign with the Wildcats in this period, coming out of Owensboro, Kentucky. Johnson is a 5’5” shortstop and utility player who projects to be a threat at the top of the batting order for UK in the future. In 2015 she was named Region Three Player of the Year and Tournament MVP. She led Daviess County to the state tournament, winning their region for the first time in her time with the school. Johnson had her best season in 2016, where she hit .568 with 79 RBI and was named First Team All-State. For the second-consecutive season, she led her team to the state tournament, was named the Region 3 Player of the Year whilst being honored as an All-State Tournament Team representative. She was also All-State Academic in Kentucky, where she will continue to hold strong UK’s academic reputation.
Five-foot-six power-hitting Mallory Peyton will make the short three-hour trip east from Madisonville, Kentucky to join the Wildcats infield rotation. She has a 3.97 unweighted GPA in addition to a high ACT score in the classroom. She led Madisonville to three-straight state tournament appearances and played a major role in helping the team set the single-season state home run record, with 63 bombs in 2015. Peyton had an outstanding season in 2016 where she was named Region Two Player of the Year, NFCA Second Team All-Region and First Team All-State for the third year in a row. Her outstanding offensive season was capped off with a .512 batting average, while notching 62 hits, 22 doubles and 18 home runs. She led Madisonville North Hopkins High School to finishing third at the state championship a year ago.
Bethany Todd joins the Kentucky pitching staff as a local standout from Woodford County, Kentucky. As a 5’11” strikeout pitcher, she which will add depth to the Wildcats pitching rotation in 2017. In 2016, she was named to the All-District Team and was named Second Team All-State in playing for Woodford Co. This summer, she led the Louisville Stunners to the Triple Crown/USA Nationals 16U title. Todd, like all who signed with the Wildcats during this period, will be eligible to compete for UK in the fall of 2017.