Five of the six seniors, infielders Kellie Sirus and Abby Keese, outfielder Lauren Dortwegt, infielder-pitcher Christen Campbell and pitcher Christy Grisham were included in that class which has formed the foundation for the Lady Bisons softball program. Pitcher Alaina Jacobson, a transfer from the University of Missouri has also been a major contributor in her three seasons with the team as well.
“In my opinion, and I think it is the opinion of a lot of others as well, this is the best class to ever come through here from the NAIA days or the NCAA days,” Ryman said. “From what they have accomplished from freshmen until now is unheard of as an entire group.
“The thing that stands out is it has been the entire group. We have had contributions from all six of them and the majority of the contributions have been major ones.”
The seniors will be honored Thursday at Draper Diamond as the Lady Bisons close out the regular season with a non-conference doubleheader with Middle Tennessee State at 5 p.m. at Draper Diamond.
Sirus, Keese and Dortwegt all were members of the Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team in 2007.
Sirus was a first team All A-Sun selection in 2009 and a second team pick in 2008. Dortwegt was a second team selection in 2009 and 2007. Keese was a second team pick in 2009 and 2008. Campbell earned second team honors in 2009. Jacobson was a second team honoree in 2008.
The group had an immediate impact on the program. The season before they joined the team the Lady Bisons had won only 14 games. This group helped with 25 during the 2007 season. Each season they have increased the victory total. This year they are 42-10.
“They were leaders as freshmen with the numbers they put up and their actions,” Ryman said. “They had a competitive nature. They wanted to start a new tradition here and I think they have done that.
“Our program is being noticed nationwide. We are in the top 40 in the RPI. We are receiving votes each week in the top 25.”
The Lady Bisons have earned the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament with an 18-2 record. They will open tournament play May 13 at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla. They have won two regular season conference championships, but have not won the conference tournament title or played in the NCAA Tournament.
“This is their program now,” Ryman said. “They have made it into what they wanted it to be the last four years.
“One of their goals all along was not only to win the regular season championship, but to win the conference tournament and play in the NCAA Tournament. The seniors know this is their last chance. I don’t think they feel pressure. They really want to make a statement.”
Ryman and pitching coach Lexi Myers have also grown as coaches as well. Ryman gives this senior class credit for helping them both improve as coaches.
“I set back and think about how far Lexi and I have grown as coaches the last four years,” Ryman said. “A lot of our same philosophies are still there, but we have altered some things because of the input they have given us and the results they have given us on the field.”
Middle Tennessee State is a strong local rival. They are 19-28 overall this season and 5-17 in the Sunbelt Conference.
“Every team wants to win their final home games,” Ryman said. “They want to give the fans one last performance and then pack up and go to Florida and take care of business.
“It is a fun day for them. There is the added excitement of it being “Senior Day”. They will have no problems being ready for these games.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.