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Tuesday, April 27, 2010Athletes should continue to improve their games as the season progresses. Lady Bisons shortstop Courtney Billington has done just that, gradually becoming one of the top hitters in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Heading into Wednesday’s 1 p.m. doubleheader with Belmont at Aquinas Field, Billington leads the conference with a .429 batting average in A-Sun games only. She is second in the conference in overall batting with a .368 average. Teammate Lauren Dortwegt is close behind with a .406 average in A-Sun games only, second best in the conference.
Billington and Dortwegt are tied for third overall in the conference in hits with 57 each.
Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman points out that Billington’s successes are sometimes not noticed because of Kellie Sirus and Abby Keese, both seniors.
“Kellie and Abby have stood out so much over the past four years,” Ryman said. “They have had great careers. They were both preseason All-Conference picks. They are the two big power hitters in the middle of our order that everyone knows.
“Courtney was our No. 2 hitter as a freshman and played second base. A lot of what she did last year went under the radar. We moved her to shortstop this season. She has done an outstanding job for is there and made some great plays.”
Overall in the conference Billington, a sophomore, is ranked second in doubles (16), fourth in total bases (89) and sixth in slugging percentage (.574).
In A-Sun games only Billington is first in total bases with 37. Dortwegt is tied for third with 32.
Ryman and assistant coach Lexi Myers decided to move Billington to the No. 5 spot in the order during the trip to Hawaii for the Spring Fling.
“In that last game in Hawaii we moved Courtney to the five-spot to try something different,” Ryman said. “Since we did that she has completely taken off.
“Her power numbers are up tremendously from last year. She is player who has not hit a ton of home runs, but she has had her share. Her doubles really stand out for me. Even if she hits the ball in a gap she has the speed to stretch a single into a double. She has hit a lot of balls off the wall that were a couple of inches from being home runs.”
Billington and Dortwegt are tied for the team lead in multiple hits games with 16. Billington has a three-game hitting streak on the line against Belmont.
“To me, if there is anybody on the team who has shown the most consistency lately it is probably Courtney,” Ryman said. “I think Lauren has done a great job at the top of the order in also providing that consistency.
“Because there are so many good hitters in our lineup, the ones that do stand out are Kellie, Abby and Lauren. Now we can add Courtney into that mix."
Ryman expects to move Billington to the No. 3 spot in the order next season.
“That is something that Lexi and I have talked about since last year,” Ryman said. “We feel like she can develop into that No. 3 hitter in our order for the next couple of years.
“Courtney works extremely hard in practice. It makes our lineup even stronger to have someone who is hitting doubles and home runs who also brings speed to the middle part of the order. I’m excited about seeing her do well.”
The Lady Bisons have seven regulars batting more than .300. Whitney Kiihnl is hitting .363, fourth overall in the conference. Keese is hitting .358, sixth best in the A-Sun. Mollie Mitchell is batting .342, ninth in the conference. Dortwegt is batting .327 and Sirus is hitting at a .316 clip.
“With Courtney right in the middle there really is no one that other teams can pitch around,” Ryman said. “Hopefully, people will take notice of her as we go into the postseason. She has been as vital a hitter in our lineup as anybody we have.
“She is one of those players who doesn’t really say a lot. She just goes out and plays the game. She expects a tremendous amount out of herself. Sometimes your best players are the ones who are their hardest critics.”
The Lady Bisons are 40-10 overall, 16-2 in the A-Sun. The Lady Bisons, regular season A-Sun champions, close out the conference regular season with the short trip Belmont. The Bruins are 10-40, 3-13 in the conference.
“Belmont is a big rivalry for us,” Ryman said. “A lot of our girls are friends of some of the Belmont players.
“They are going to put the ball in play. They have a little power. We are going to approach it as we have to go out and take care of business. Belmont doesn’t have many wins, but if look a lot of their losses in conference play have been 2-1 or 3-2. They are going to challenge teams that are not on their games.”
National rankings: The Lady Bisons received 21 votes for the Top 25 in the Ultimate College Softball and seven in USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.