So when Lipscomb Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman mentions Kiihnl and the word “potential” in the same sentence it is more than a little surprising to the ear.
“She has all the potential in the world,” Ryman said. “She throws the ball hard. She moves her pitches well. But we really want her to understand what she is trying to do on the mound with pitch.
“They have to have a plan. When there is a certain count on a batter you want to put the ball in certain places. Just because we call for a rise ball doesn’t mean we want it to be thrown in the same place every time.”
Kiihnl started the week ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division I in both earned run average and hits allowed per seven innings with 2.11. She is seventh in victories, eighth in shutouts and 13th in strikeouts.
“Whitney has obviously done some tremendous things in her time here,” Ryman said. “Whitney has so much talent and that is what people see every time she pitches.”
What fans don’t see is the work that assistant coach Lexi Myers and Ryman do with Kiihnl each day in practice from both a mental and physical standpoint. Ryman thinks the mental part of the game is where Kiihnl is going to continue to make tremendous strides.
“Her talent is going to continue to improve as she develops her understanding,” Ryman said. “A lot of times coaches look at their better players and they don’t use that term potential very often with them.
“No matter how good our players are we are always looking for ways they can improve. Abby Keese is a perfect example. She has been such a good hitter for us the last three years. But this year I saw the potential, and she saw the potential to improve on the batting average side. Her average has been pretty good since she has been here, but people notice her power more.”
Ryman wants her players to improve each year regardless of how good they are as freshmen.
“We have had players who put up great numbers as freshmen,” Ryman said. “Our seniors are all more well-rounded as players than they were when they got here. That is rewarding for Lexi and me.
“If you can improve in one little aspect of your game over a year you are going to become a better player in four years.”
Ryman doesn’t think that Kiihnl will ever settle for less than her best effort in every game.
“People look at a small school like Lipscomb and still question our strength of schedule and are the numbers in direct correlation with who we are playing instead of thinking that Whitney is a good pitcher.
“My answer to that is she went out and beat California 1-0. She competed on the mound against a team that is one of the top 10 or 15 teams in the country every year and a World Series team from the most softball rich part of the country.”
Kiihnl has only lost two games this season. Ryman points out that last season Kiihnl sometimes lost some games she should have won.
“That is the biggest difference that I see in her from last year to this year,” Ryman said. “She would give up one big hit at the wrong time. This year she is winning the games she should win, and some people might say she has won a few she shouldn’t have won such as the Cal game.
“She is a more well-rounded pitcher this year. She is hitting her spots better. Her walks are down. She is only going to get better.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.