NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball coach Kristin Ryman has signed four new players who have the power.
Their ability to not only hit a softball, but to hit it with authority, is one of the common threads that bring the four members of the 2014 recruiting class– Riley Brown, Abby Fenichel, Desiree Morrow and Caitlin Polcheck – together.
“It is a strong hitting class for us and we are excited about that,” Ryman said. “Hitting-wise they can all step in and help right away.
“It is a really good class for us. They are all top-notch.They are coachable. They want to learn. For all four of these girls it was about finding the right fit.”
Wanting to be a part of the Lipscomb softball program, and understanding what is means to be both a Lipscomb student and athlete, is another thread that binds the four.
“If there is a resonating theme for this group it is they all fit extremely well in our system and with the culture that we have within our program and at Lipscomb,” Ryman said. “It is important that we find kids that fit.
“It has always been one of the biggest points of emphasis for us. That is how you create team chemistry. It is how you find players that are not just going to do well athletically but are going to thrive here. They are going to grow to be the best softball players and teammates they can be.”
A versatile catcher
Fenichel is a catcher from East Ridge High School in Clermont, Fla.
“Abby has played a very high level of travel ball,” Ryman said. “She is somebody I believe has not reached her peak yet. The way she moves, how athletic she is, she has a tremendous upside with both her hitting and her catching.
“She has such a high level of experience with the quality of competition she has played against. I think she is going to come in and be one that needs a little bit of time to develop. Once she gains that confidence she could take off and be a very good all-around player for us. I am very excited about her future.”
Fenichel, 5-foot-6, is expected to get immediate time behind the plate.
“We are looking for her to come in and catch a lot of innings right away,” Ryman said. “I think she can definitely handle that.
“I think she is going to do great things behind the plate. She won’t have a whole lot of transition time. Over the course of her career you are going to see her get better and better.”
Ryman also expects Fenichel, a three-year letter winner in softball, to be able to contribute at other positions as she matures as a college player.
“She has the versatility to play a corner or in the outfield,” Ryman said. “Third might be her next best position. It is exciting for a catcher to have that kind of versatility.”
Ryman also likes what she has seen from Fenichel at the plate, but knows that more work is needed for her to reach her full potential.
“She has tremendous tools to be a really strong hitter,” Ryman said. “She is not where she needs to be hitting-wise yet. It is just going to be a matter of time and getting it to all jell together for her. “
Fenichel’s parents are Carol and Scott Baker. She plans on majoring in psychology.
Double threat from Texas
Plocheck is a pitcher-first baseman who has won numerous awards in both high school and club softball in the Houston area for her performances at both positions.
“Offensively, Caitlin has the ability, whether she is pitching or not, to be in our lineup right away,” Ryman said. “She is going to have some home runs here and there but more than anything she consistently puts the ball in play.
“She is going to be a good gap-to-gap power-type of hitter. She is coming in with not only a strong bat, but with a lot of confidence in her hitting.”
Plocheck plays for Deer Park High School in Houston, the same school where Lipscomb outfielder Gracey Aguirre played. The two were once high school teammates.
Some of her awards include All-Greater Houston Player of the Year, District 21-5-A Most Valuable Player, 2013 Max Preps All-American Team first baseman, 2013 NFCA First Team first baseman, Third Team All-American first baseman and 2013 TSWA All-State first baseman.
In 2012 she was named All-State Tournament Team, TGCA All-State Team and TSWA First Team All-State First baseman. She was a First Team All-District pitcher and Second Team All-Greater Houston. She was an NFCA Second Team member.
In 2011 she was also a member of the NFCA Second Team. She was also named Newcomer of the Year MVP.
She is a two-time team captain for both her high school and club teams for 2013 and 2014.
In the 2012 Texas State Championship she posted a .833 batting average, the best in Texas state tournament history.
Plocheck has also excelled in the classroom. She is a three-time NFCA Scholar-Athlete. She is also a member of the National Honor Society.
“We are expecting her to come in and have a big impact right away,” Ryman said. “Pitching-wise she is going to be a great complement to what we have.
“She has really good movement on the ball. She is somebody with a knack for getting outs.”
Ryman expects Plocheck to see time on the mound and at first base.
“Caitlin has the athletic ability to compete at first base,” Ryman said. “She is a very well-rounded player. She has been one of the top hitters in the greater Houston area the last two years.”
She is the daughter of Tamera and Rob Plocheck. She plans a major in exercise science.
Known for her hitting
Desiree Morrow is an outfielder from Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala. She is also a power hitter.
“If you asked Desiree what she is known for she would very quickly say her hitting,” Ryman said. “Outfield-wise she is going to transition more as a right fielder or left fielder.
“Offensively, she is going to transition well at this level. She has the ability and the power to step in and be in the middle part of our order right away. She can step in and have a big impact right away.”
In 2013 Morrow played for the Alabama State All-Star Team.
In 2012 she was a member of the All-State team. She set state records with 23 home runs and 95 RBI. She also hit a school record five grand slams.
“Desiree is one of those players that is very unassuming about how she plays,” Ryman said. “Defensively you may not notice her a lot, but offensively it is hard to miss her.
“She has a lot of natural power in her swing. She works very hard on her hitting. She has a work ethic that will transition nicely to the Division I level.”
Desiree is the daughter of Donna Morrow. She has a strong love for the state of Alabama and her hometown, but liked what she saw at Lipscomb.
“Desiree is very excited about being at Lipscomb,” Ryman said. “She connected with our coaching staff.
“She knows it is a great fit. She wanted a smaller environment with a homey feel.”
Strong arm, strong swing
Brown was the first commitment from the 2014 class. She is an infielder from Bethany High School in Bethany, Okla.
“Riley has played a lot of shortstop,” Ryman said. “She may end up transitioning to third base.
“She has a really strong arm. She is working to get a little bit quicker which is where I think the transition from short to third could help her. I think she could be a really good third baseman for us.”
Brown, 5-foot-10, is a dual star athlete. She also has been honored for her basketball ability. But her best talent is hitting a softball a long distance.
“Riley has a lot of power,” Ryman said. “She has a great build. She is athletic.
“Overall she has a lot of potential to be a really strong hitter for us. She has hit a lot of home runs in her high school and travel ball career. She is going to transition nicely to this level as a power hitter.”
Her high school softball team made the school’s first ever state tournament appearance in 2011. The team was the district champion in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. They were also the regional champions in 2011.
Brown served as the team captain in 2013. She was a 4-A All-Region selection in 2013. She has been a Sooner Conference All-District performer in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
She was the Sooner Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2012. She was All Little City Honorable Mention in 2011 and 2012.
Her highest statistics are a .551 batting average, a .627 on base percentage and a .959 slugging percentage.
She has lettered four years in both softball and basketball.
Ryman points out that Brown has some work to do on fine-tuning her mechanics. But she also adds that Riley has many intangibles that can’t be taught.
“She definitely has a lot of intangibles,” Ryman said. “But mechanically there are some things we want to work on with her swing.
“The things you can’t help but notice when you see her play are her size, her arm strength and her power. We are excited about how she is going to continue to grow as a player.”
She is the daughter of Janean and Dahl Brown. Brown plans to pursue studies in sports medicine.