The Arizona softball team has added two high-profile transfers from Louisiana-Lafayette in senior centerfielder Aleah Craighton and sophomore right-hander Alyssa Denham.
Both are eligible to play in 2018, I’m told (likely because long-time ULL coach Michael Lotief was fired in October amid allegations of verbal and physical assault on student-athletes and co-workers).
Craighton was a First-Team All-American in 2017, hitting .345/.536/.779 with 18 homers and 58 RBI.
The Louisiana native has started in 164 games over three seasons and was a member of the All-Sun Belt First Team the last two seasons.
Craighton has received several other nominations, including Sun Belt Conference Female Student-Athlete of the Year (2017), and was one of 50 players on the USA Softball Player of the Year Watch List (2017).
Craighton will likely start in center field for the Wildcats as Alyssa Palomino, a second-team all-Pac-12 performer, will likely shift to designated player after suffering a second ACL tear last May.
Arizona graduated three of its best hitters in Katiyana Mauga, Mo Mercado, and Mandie Perez, so Craighton can help fill their void.
Denham, the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year, went 15-2 with a 2.27 ERA in 129.2 innings in 2017. The Alvin, Texas native logged 80 strikeouts and held opposing teams to a .205 average. The right-hander had two wins over top-five teams (Alabama and Texas A&M).
Like Craighton, Denham was a member of the All-Sun Belt First Team.
After losing ace Danielle O’Toole to graduation this offseason, one of the biggest tasks for Arizona in 2018 is finding a reliable No. 2 starter behind junior Taylor McQuillin.
Replacing O’Toole is no easy feat, but the Wildcats now have several options as Denham will compete with Purdue transfer Gina Snyder and freshmen Hanah Bowen and Taylor Gilmore for that spot.
Arizona, which won the Pac-12 in 2017 for the first time in 10 years, opens the 2018 season Feb. 9 against Northwestern.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire