The Atlantic Sun Conference announced the 2011 All-Conference selections for softball on Tuesday and four Lady Bisons garnered awards.
Junior outfielder Caroline Mason earned a spot on the First Team, while juniors Whitney Kiihnl and Courtney Billington made the Second Team. Freshman catcher Haley Elliott was named to the All-Freshman Team.
Lipscomb head coach Kristin Ryman said Mason was well deserving of a spot on the First Team.
“Caroline had a breakout season,” Ryman said. “She has an outstanding arm in right field, and she was able to make the transition from left to right field when she was a freshman.”
“Offensively, she has really had a great season. With her power and her average, her hitting has always been her strong suit. This year she was healthy all season long and I really thought it showed in what she was capable of doing offensively.”
Mason paced Lipscomb at the plate with 41 hits and nine home runs this year. She finished the regular season batting .318 to lead the way for the Lady Bisons. Defensively, Mason was solid in right field with a .929 fielding percentage and only two errors this season.
Lipscomb’s right-handed ace Kiihnl, along with shortstop Billington, were named Second Team All-Conference selections. Ryman said she was excited that both of these players were honored with post-season awards.
“Even as juniors, Whitney and Courtney are already two of the best players that have played here.” Ryman said. “I am just really excited for them that they are both getting honored again.”
Kiihnl, who was the 2010 A-Sun Player of the Year, finished the regular season with 309 strikeouts (second in the Atlantic Sun). She used a 1.58 ERA to win 19 games against nine losses. She also led the league with 11 shutout wins.
Ryman said Kiihnl has had some ups and downs this season but is still one of the most dangerous pitchers in the league.
“Whitney struggled a little midway through the year, but she has really stepped it up.” Ryman said. “In my opinion she is easily one of the best pitchers in the conference, if not the best. She is that one pitcher that nobody wants to face this time of year and I am glad that she is on our team.”
As the Lady Bisons shortstop, Billington finished the regular season second behind Mason in total hits with 38. She also added six homeruns and 24 RBI. The Mount Juliet, Tenn., native was once again solid defensively at shortstop, posting a .935 fielding percentage.
Ryman said Billington has improved with every game this season.
“Courtney is that defensive player that is steady at shortstop.” Ryman said. “Offensively she has big time potential both with her average and her power. She has really come on strong for us in the second half of the season.”
The Lady Bisons also had representation on the All-Freshman Team with Elliott earning a spot. With five homeruns and 21 RBI, Elliott gave Lipscomb an offensive lift this year. Ryman said Elliott also provided versatility and depth at the catcher and the designated player position.
“Haley has really stepped up as a freshman this season,” Ryman said. “She is someone that has a lot of potential at the plate, but has also been very coachable and open to any role we put her in.”
“She has been our designated player a lot and offensively she has provided some power when we needed it. She just found ways to get on base and make things happen. I’m really proud of her and what she has done this year.”
Lipscomb (28-18, 15-5) finished second in the Atlantic Sun and earned a first round bye in this week’s Atlantic Sun Tournament. Ryman acknowledged that receiving post-season awards was nice, but said that this team has bigger ambitions in mind.
“This team is not driven by awards. We never have been.” Ryman said. “It is all about winning the title as a team.”
“The awards are nice when they come, but that is not going to be what drives us. At the end of the day, these girls are going to remember more about a championship as a team than they are about winning All-Conference.”