Freshman ‘T-baby Paysen’ starts for U of L

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High school to retire her Lady Hawk jersey

By Ron Benningfield

Tesha Paysen didn’t believe her University of Louisville softball teammate Megan Hornback last week when the catcher told Paysen she had made the Lady Cards’ starting lineup.

“I never look at the lineup, because I’m a freshman,” said Paysen, a 2008 LaRue County High School graduate. “Megan is a cutup, always joking, and I thought that she was joking this time, too.”

But when Paysen, nicknamed “T” or “T-baby” by her teammates, took a peek at the lineup, there she was, starting in left field.

“It was amazing,” she said. “Coach pulled me aside a few days ago and told me my defense had come a long way, but I really wasn’t expecting to start.”

A high school All-State, All-Region, and East/West All-Star player, she has learned just how different the college game is from her Lady Hawks days.

“The pitchers throw a lot harder in college, and it’s quite an adjustment,” she said. Making the starting lineup, however, has been a step forward for her, leading her to believe all the hard work she’s put in has paid off.

That work has included a lot of time in the weight room. From August until Christmas break, she and her teammates lifted weights Monday through Friday. 

The routine included lifting from 7:45 to 9 a.m., after-class practice from 3:30-5:30 p.m. in the fall, 3:30-6 p.m. in the spring. 

“On days before games, we have individual drills for outfielders and infielders,” she said. “Coach told me my defense is better than my offense, that I need to get stronger, especially with my backhand, and more disciplined, not going after bad pitches.”

Though she hasn’t had much time at the plate, she has been a regular substitute runner, seeing action in 12 games.

“She is now the first one off the bench and has scored the winning run on two occasions,” said Mielle DiStefano, LaRue’s head softball coach and Paysen’s former mentor. “Tesha has really made us proud.”

The Lady Cards, 40-6 through last week’s games, finish April with two home doubleheaders, facing Georgetown Saturday and the University of Kentucky Tuesday. They travel to Notre Dame for a doubleheader May 3 then join the Big East conference tournament May 7-10.

The season has marked another first for Paysen.

“I took my first airplane ride this fall on one of our away games,” she said.  “If the trip will take over seven to eight hours, we usually fly.”

On full academic scholarship, Paysen has maintained a 3-point-plus above grade-point average while taking 14  hours of classes this semester. She has a double major in sports administration and exercise science.

LCHS announced it was retiring her Lady Hawk jersey because of her accomplishments.

“That’s the greatest feeling in the world for me,” she said, “to know you’re up there with the likes of Brandi Eastridge, Brandy Meers and the others; it’s a big honor.”