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Tuesday, August 25, 2009With five freshmen and a sophomore transfer, the Lady Bison Softball team is facing a problem it has never had before _ a complete roster of 20 players.
And with every starter from last season returning, coach Kristin Peck also expects to have more depth and versatility than ever before.
"We've always been a team which has girls that can legitimately play more than one position, and that's always helped us out," said Peck, "But for the first time since I've been here, we are going to have a lot of depth and a lot of incoming freshmen pushing starters for playing time."
Top new contributors are expected to be pitcher Katy Ayers, a red-shirt freshman from Nashville who transferred from Florida International University and sophomore transfer Emily Casey, a utility player who played one year at Syracuse University.
"I'm expecting Katy to definitely impact our pitching staff early on," said Peck. "We have six pitchers this year, they are all different and they all complement each other."
Peck is returning for her fifth year as head coach. She is also looking at her first recruiting class finally as seniors. And with no seniors on the team last season, the class of 2010 already has a year of leadership under its belt.
"Our seniors are fun players who were great leaders last year," said Peck. "And I think this season, seniors who haven't always been looked at as leaders will get to step up as well."
With weight training, conditioning, captain practices, and a fall game schedule, the players will be expected to take on this leadership role right away.
The Lady Bisons already have eight games scheduled for the fall, including a round-robin set up at Tennessee Tech on Sept. 26, a double-header at the University of Tennessee on Oct.1, and a fall tournament hosted by Lipscomb in early October.
Finishing second in the season last year and third at the conference tournament, the Lady Bisons are anxious for the upcoming season. With Freshman of the Year Whitney Kiihnl, First Team All-Conference member Kellie Sirus, and six other Lady Bisons who received end of the year honors all returning to the team, the squad is looking to be tough competition for the spring.
Last season the Lady Bisons were ranked 15th nationally in NCAA Division I in earned run average (1.75), 17th in won-lost percentage (.736), 25th in fielding percentage (.971) and 26th in batting average (.300).
Individually, Sirus was ranked 17th in doubles per game (.32), 25th in batting average (.418) and 36th in runs batted in per game (.91). Courtney Billington was ranked 13th in sacrifice hits per game (.435). Kiihnl was 28th in earned run average (1.45) and 39th in strikeouts per seven innings (8.1).
Out of 30 possible conferences, the Atlantic Sun was determined to be the 10th best for softball, proving Lipscomb's program to be strong, along with the tough competition they expect to see this season. And with three more teams now eligible for the conference tournament, the fight to get in will be even harder.
"It won't be automatic to get into the tournament anymore," said Peck. "It will be more of a challenge this year. We are definitely going to have to earn our spot."
This story was written by Katie Haab, a student member of the athletics communications staff.