Christian County has produced multiple Division-I softball players in the last couple of years.
Add junior Pickle Winkler to that list.
The Lady Colonels’ stalwart in the outfield announced she would be continuing her career on the softball field in college in the ACC with the Louisville Cardinals.
With the COVID-19 pandemic running rampant in the country since March, the 2020 spring season fell victim and it also caused some issues with recruiting.
Winkler said it was an adjustment, but she still found her way to a school after her career in Christian County red and blue. She even gets the opportunity to play under someone she fantasized growing up.
“The recruiting process was already stressful as is, but when the COVID shutdown happened, they put on a dead period,” Winkler said. “We have this camera, it’s called ‘Athletes Go Live.’ College coaches can get on and watch us, but it’s not the same as them coming out in person so it’s really hard for them to recruit us.
“I think I picked Louisville because it’s close to home. I can use my in-state money for my academics and then I love the way coach Holly (Aprile) coaches. She’s got such fire, she’s so passionate about the game and I love that. Griffin Joiner is an assistant coach and she’s my absolute role model. I wrote a paper about her when I was in fifth grade, I have a jersey signed by her, I have a bunch of UK things signed by her when she was at UK and I just really wanted to play for her. She is my absolute idol. I just love the campus. I was so comfortable when I walked on campus and it just felt like home.”
Even though she lost her sophomore season, Winkler saw it as an opportunity and not something to hang her head on.
She went to work in the time off, perfecting her craft and she saw it transfer to her travel ball season.
“Even without the high school season, I think this year has been really beneficial for me to work on the little parts of the game that I wouldn’t have had time to work on with the high school season,” she said.
Winkler’s dedication to her craft has been unwavering. She has continued workouts three days per week and has focused on the little things in the game so she can be fine-tuned and good in all facets of her game.
“I have an app, it’s called ‘Volt’ — It’s a position-specific, sport-specific workout program,” Winkler said. “I work out three days a week and I do yoga every day so I can stay stretched. … Over this year, I have worked so much on mechanics on my swing, on my throwing and on my footwork in the outfield. It was just getting techniques right and getting mechanics right. That showed over when I played travel ball so everything came together.”
With all the work put in, Winkler is excited for her junior season this spring with the Lady Colonels.
“Our new coach was our travel ball coach when we were all younger so it’s like we’re going back to our roots and we’re going to show people what we can do,” she said. “I think we’re going to be really, really good this year. We have one of our pitchers coming back and we have a freshman pitcher that’s really good. I think we’re going to be strong throughout the lineup with me, Reni (Shemwell), and Tenley (Gilbert) and all these other young power hitters that are coming through.”
The University of Louisville and University of Kentucky rivalry is already a very personal rivalry, but there is an even more personal feeling for Winkler, as she will be on the field against her former teammate in Emmy Blane.
Winkler said she worked with Blane when they were teammates and can’t wait to take the field against her.
“It’s going to be a great environment to be in,” she said. “When we were in school together, she would be the person I would work on with my slap game and standing still because if I can slap against Emmy Blane, I can slap against anybody and get on first base. It’ll be like deja vu coming back when I step on the field with her. It’s going to be really fun and really competitive. I cannot wait.”
But for now, she is focused on the current time. Winkler said going forward she wants to continue to improve all-around.
“I really have gotten away from the slap game because of the rule change,” Winkler said. “I think I’m trying to get back into my slap game a little bit more. I’ll work a lot of defensive things in the outfield. I’ll work on footwork, taking a drop step, and turns. I’m really trying to get my arm stronger. Right now my arm is pretty strong, but I really want to get up to 70 mph when I’m throwing from the outfield.”