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Trying to find spots for talented players is a good problem for Ryman
Bree Thurman
Bree Thurman

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lipscomb Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman is going to return from Chattanooga this weekend with a strong indication of how good her softball team might be this season.

Friday at face Oakland, a team they faced last weekend at Georgia Southern in the Eagle Classic at 11:30 a.m. They close out the first day when they play Austin Peay from the Ohio Valley Conference at 2 p.m.

Saturday the Lady Bisons open the day against Kentucky from the Southeastern Conference at 11:30 a.m. and Kansas from the Big 12 Conference at 4:30.

Sunday the Lady Bisons close out the tournament with a game with Georgetown at 9 a.m. The Lady Bisons beat Georgetown 3-0 last season.

The Lady Bisons are 7-1 heading into the tournament. They have won their last five games in a row.

“I love what we did last weekend against Georgia Southern, a team picked second in the Southern Conference,” Ryman said. “We did some great things last weekend, but a lot of people see the scores and think we just ran over everybody. This will definitely be a tougher weekend for us as we start getting a little bit closer to conference play. We have to find out who is going to consistently get it done.

“The tougher the opponents get the tougher it is going to be for our players to stay consistent. If we can come out of this weekend and still feel good about where we are it will give us a little extra boost going into our last couple of tournaments before we start playing games in the conference.”

Ryman expects to go deep with her pitching staff with Whitney Kiihnl, Christen Campbell and Alaina Jacobson filling out the rotation. Campbell leads the Atlantic Sun Conference with a 0.00 earned run average. Kiihnl is second with a 0.23 ERA. Kiihnl also leads in opponent’s batting average with a 0.74 average.

“We love what we get off the mound from Whitney, Christen and Alaina,” Ryman said. “Whitney is one of those that we can put into a game and immediately know not that many balls are going to be put into play because of the type of pitcher she is.

“Alaina and Christen are so different from Whitney and so different from each other. It gives us three good options to start any game. Whitney may end up throwing a little bit more, but we plan to continue to use all three.”

Offensively, the Lady Bisons are flexing their power at the plate in the early going. First baseman Kellie Sirus leads the conference with a .524 batting average and a 1.095 slugging percentage. Second baseman Abby Keese is third with a .957 slugging percentage and seventh in the conference in batting with a .435 average. Kiihnl is sixth with a .444 average. Catcher Mollie Mitchell is ninth with a .412 average.

Both Sirus and Keese each have three home runs and three doubles. Sirus has driven in nine runs and Keese has seven RBI.

Vanessa Medina plays first base and also serves as a designated player. All four of her hits have been for extra bases with two home runs and two doubles and six RBI. She and Kiihnl are both in the mix to serve as the designated player. Both offer different talents at the plate.

“They are two different types of hitters,” Ryman said. “Whitney brings speed and Vanessa brings the power. We may flip-flop those two. If we need more power then Vanessa is going to be in there. If we need more of a speed aspect then it will probably be Whitney.”

Ryman is also pleased with the defensive play of her team, especially in the outfield with Lauren Dortwegt, Mackenzie Tucker, Caroline Mason and Bree Thurman in the mix for three spots.

“I like what we have in the outfield,” Ryman said. “All four of them are good enough to be out there. It is going to come down to the consistency of their hitting and where some other people fit into our lineup.

“Bree had the opportunity to step on the field right away that first weekend. I think having that opportunity she showed us a lot of positive things. I felt like she had a lot of good at bats. Had it not been for that first weekend she might not be in the situation she is in right now.”

The newcomers have also been impressive, making it difficult for Ryman and assistant coach Lexi Myers to determine lineups.

“It is a good problem for us,” Ryman said. “Winning ball games is ultimately what matters. But they are all very competitive and they all want to be out there and contributing as much as they can.”

Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations