LipscombSports.com
Softball pitching trio eyes success

Thursday, February 07, 2013
by Mark McGee

Don’t let the smile and her calm demeanor fool you. Paige Cassady is a demanding pitching coach and she has made an impression on the trio that will work the mound for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball team this season.

Sophomore Ashley Anderson, junior transfer Heather Parker and freshman Tanner Sanders will get tested quickly as the Lady Bisons travel to Texas for the Houston Hilton Classic hosted by the University of Houston Friday, Saturday and Sunday to open the 2013 regular season. Their first opponent Friday is Iowa at 11:30 a.m. followed by Houston at 4:30 p.m.

There is always room for improvement, but Cassady likes what she has seen in fall games and in spring practice.

“I think we have very good options,” Cassady said. “I think if they all perform consistently they can be very dangerous.”

Cassady is dealing with three pitchers with three distinct pitching styles. Sanders is a rise ball pitcher. Anderson favors a drop ball. Parker is somewhat a hybrid of Sanders and Anderson in terms of style with the ability to offer a variety of looks.

“I think Parker is ready,” Cassady said. “I got her when she was ready in the fall. We have done some things to make her smarter and show her to get more out of her pitches. She is very mature and very smart. I love working with her.

“Anderson is going to continue to get better. To me it is more about her mentality and how she is approaching a game. She commits to everything I want her to do. She just needs to re-emphasize that to herself on every pitch.”

Sanders spent a lot of the time on the mound in the fall, but she will officially make her collegiate debut this weekend. The 5-7 right-hander has power on her pitches that is surprising considering her size.

“I think Tanner is ready,” Cassady said. “Experience is what she needs. I am not worried about her.”

Last season Anderson usually let the defense keep her out of trouble. This season Cassady is pushing Anderson to be more of a strike out pitcher.

“Anderson needs to be sharper,” Cassady said. “Her break points need to be better. She needs to be able to do it on purpose.

“I think she has just been given the ball in the past and told to throw drops. She has been good at drops, but can she control it and put it where she wants it.”

It has not been easy for Anderson to find consistency with the new approach.

“I want her to throw a screwball, curve and change-up and using those to get ahead and then throwing the drop to get a batter to swing and miss. I don’t want her to throw a drop ball the first pitch and give up a single and put pressure on the defense.”

Last season Anderson, 6-foot-2 left-hander, finished with a 13-6 record,  a 3.00  earned run average and 59 strikeouts. Cassady knows that Anderson can take her game to a higher level this season.

“I believe she can be better if she does things more productively and puts in more time,” Cassady said. “She needs to get more out of her body and her potential. My job is to make her see what she could be rather than just allowing her to be what she is.”

Parker, making the transition from Wallace State, can be a double threat as a starter or reliever. She was 29-7 with a 1.52 ERA and 261 strikeouts for Wallace State her sophomore season. The biggest asset for the right-hander is her control.

“She is very experienced as a pitcher,” Cassady said. “She is very solid fundamentally. I can call a pitch and tell you where it is going to go 85 percent of the time. You don’t always have a pitcher that is that great out of the bullpen. She gives me a lot of confidence.

“That is what I need her to do for our staff. I need her to come out of the bullpen and be that foundation. And, if the other two are struggling in a three-game series, I can throw her again. It is going to make it really easy to tell one of our other pitchers that they are done and tell Parker to get in there.”

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