Sophomore Whitney Kiihnl is the centerpiece of the pitching staff and is expected to handle the bulk of the work in the NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala., this weekend. Rounding out the staff are seniors Alaina Jacobson and Christen Campbell.
The Lady Bisons, 48-11, open the Tuscaloosa regional Friday afternoon at 3:30 against UAB, 36-20, from Conference USA. Kiihnl no-hit UAB April 20 at Draper Diamond in a 1-0 game. Campbell lost the second game of the doubleheader 7-5. Regional host Alabama, 48-9, will face Alcorn State, 24-24, from the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Alabama’s athletics web site will be providing free live video streaming of all the games. Lipscombsports.com will provide live audio streaming with Brian Ryman and Brent High handling the announcing duties.
Lady Bisons catcher Mollie Mitchell, a sophomore, likes dealing with the different personalities that Kiihnl, Jacobson and Campbell offer.
“Whitney is loose and funny during practice,” Mitchell said. “She’ll goof off and do a little dance sometimes. When she is on the mound she is all business and throws the ball hard.”
Jacobson is three personalities in one with different names for each one.
“Alaina is different,” Mitchell said. “We call her Alaina, Alana and Elaine. Elaine is more of an angry, real intense pitcher. Alana is the player who makes all the moves and makes all the defensive plays. The regular Alaina is goofy and fun.
“Christen is cool off the field, but on the field she is all business. Coach has called her a gamer before. She is very serious and very focused on the field.”
They also offer different pitching styles.
“Alaina and Christen are more movement pitchers where Whitney throws real hard with movement,” Mitchell said. “I don’t really see the ball jump that much when I am catching. The only ball I see move a lot is Alana’s curve ball because it covers so much ground.”
Kahn is the Player of the Year and the Pitcher of the Year in the A-Sun with a 31-3 record and a nation’s best 0.73 earned run average. She has recorded five no-hitters, including a perfect game. She also has 12 shutouts for the season.
Campbell, a senior, is 10-4 with a 1.40 ERA. Jacobson, also a senior, is 6-4 with a 2.40 ERA.
Assistant coach Lexi Myers calls the pitches. But if the pitcher decides to shake off the sign by Myers it is up to Mitchell to call the pitch.
“Whitney and I are on the same level strategically,” Mitchell said. “Catching Whitney is easier for me. I feel like I understand her thinking more than with the older pitchers because we are both sophomores.
“Catching the older girls is a learning process. They teach me every game. If a sign gets shaken off I am the one who calls it. When I am catching the older girls I’m not always certain which sign to call.”
Mitchell was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Conference First Team this year. She was the unanimous selection at catcher. She has not missed an inning this season and has won two A-Sun Player of the Week awards this season.
She is batting .349, eighth overall in the conference. She is second overall in the A-Sun in runs batted in with 39.
Not bad for a player who couldn’t talk a Division II team in her hometown into signing her.
“When I came to Lipscomb I didn’t think I was going to play,” Mitchell said. “I came in expecting to sit the bench and work my way up.
“I wasn’t really recruited by a bunch of schools. I tried to talk with a D-II school in my hometown and they wouldn’t talk to me. I made one other visit, but Lipscomb wanted me to play.”
Mitchell played baseball until she was in the sixth grade, spending time as a both a catcher and pitcher.
“As the catcher I am involved in every pitch and every play,” Mitchell said. “I feel like I would get distracted if I played anywhere else. It is pretty fun.”
Ryman admits that Mitchell was a raw talent as a high school player, but she saw skills that could not be taught like arm strength and overall athletic ability.
“Mollie had both of those,” Ryman said. “She has a really good head on her shoulders. A lot of times, especially at the catcher position, you need someone who is high energy and is not afraid to speak up. We have been able to fine tune some things mechanically with her behind the plate.
“She is learning how to call pitches better. She has developed enough to the point where in the next couple of years she could legitimately call a really good game back there.”
Mitchell was equally as raw at the plate when she came to Lipscomb.
“She wasn’t a project,” Ryman said. “But as a hitter she thought too much at the plate. She has to keep it simple.
“She has to go up to the plate with a clean slate and not think about anything. She just has to go up and react.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.