After beating Middle Tennessee State from the Sun Belt Conference 7-4 in game one they shut down the Blue Raiders 4-0 in the nightcap Thursday night at Draper Diamond.
“Any time you can get a sweep at home is great,” said Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman. “We came out and took care of business.”
The Lady Bisons, the No. 1 seed next week in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., have recorded program high 27 shutouts this season. The old school record was 17 set last season by the Lady Bisons.
Sophomore pitcher Whitney Kiihnl is ninth in the nation in NCAA Division I in shutouts with 11.
Ryman stresses that for many reasons shutouts are difficult to achieve in softball.
“When you think about softball the bases are close and the field is short,” Ryman said. “You have the speed factor, the slap hitters and bunts.
“All it takes is a wild pitch here or there to move a runner around. We made a couple of miscues against MTSU and all of a sudden they have a runner on third and chance to score on a ball that is not that well hit.”
The shutouts certainly speak to the quality of the pitching staff which is . But it also points to the consistency of the Lady Bisons on defense. They are rated 12th in NCAA Division I with a .973 fielding percentage.
“Our defense has been strong,” Ryman said. “They have done the work and made the good plays behind our pitchers. We work extremely hard on our defense.
“For us pitching and hitting are what people usually notice the most about our team. But we spend a lot of time on defense in practice. It is important for us to make those routine plays. We do all kinds of situations in practice and make it as game-like as we possibly can make it with runners in pressure positions.”
It was even more fitting that the winning pitchers in both games were seniors. Christen Campbell started game one. Kiihnl came on in relief to start the seventh, but gave up four runs on one hit, three walks and one hit batter forcing Campbell to return to the mound to salvage the victory. Campbell, 10-4, did not give up a run. She allowed three hits, walked one and struck out three.
Campbell, who also plays third base, had three hits in game one and two in game two.
In game two Alaina Jacobson threw her fourth shutout of the season. She scattered four hits. She walked one and struck out seven.
“Christen had a great game,” Ryman said. “The second game was vintage Alaina…keeping people off balance. It was their day.
“It is fitting for those two to be on the mound because they have been here the longest of anyone on our pitching staff. For those two to play the way they did is really special.”
Offensively, the Lady Bisons also flexed their muscles with 16 hits led by Kellie Sirus who blasted two-run homers over the left field fence in the first innings of both games. She also had a double.
“Kellie is looking like she did at the beginning of the year when she was absolutely on fire,” Ryman said. “She is a model of consistency. She brings a lot of confidence to our team hitting-wise.”
In addition to Campbell, Jacobson and Sirus, seniors Abby Keese, Lauren Dortwegt and Christy Grisham were also honored.
The Lady Bisons are 44-10 for the season, five short of the all-time program record for wins set during the NAIA era under coach Andy Lane in 1997. Lane’s teams won 45 games in 1999 and 46 in 1998.
MTSU slipped to 19-30.
Finals ended Thursday and graduation is Saturday. Ryman is giving her players a couple of days off before heading back to the practice field Sunday.
“We want to give them a chance to chill, sleep a little and relax,” Ryman said. “A lot of them have their parents here for graduation.
“We don’t want to go extremely long. But we want to get some good work in and feel comfortable with things before we head to Florida on Tuesday.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.