After playing two softball games, including one nine-inning one, the Lady Bisons were feeling the fatigue of exposure Saturday to a heat index that was near 100.
They will be facing more of the same Sunday afternoon at 1:30 when they meet Alabama, the top seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional. Bright sunshine and temperatures hovering in the high 90s are expected. The winner advances to the Super Regional round.
Free videostreaming is available at rolltide.com. Audio streaming can be heard at lipscombsports.com.
“Lady Bisons softball trainer Elizabeth Jurenko has spent much of her time reminding the players to make sure they are drinking both water and sports drinks as much as possible to combat the effects of the heat.
“We’ve got to rehydrate them and make sure they get some rest,” Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman said. “Obviously, that was a big key in this game and the entire day.
“It was a warm, humid day. Keeping them hydrated going into Sunday is going to be huge.”
The Lady Bisons lost 5-2 to the Crimson Tide, to start the day Saturday. They eliminated UAB from the tournament with a 7-6, nine-inning win to close out the day. UAB eliminated Alcorn State Saturday before playing the Lady Bisons.
“We won the game against UAB and we are playing on Sunday in our very first Regional,” Ryman said. “I was talking to some of our parents and we talked about those two big positives.
“The third positive is all of the experience our freshmen, sophomores and juniors are getting this year by being in a big game atmosphere.”
Ryman expects her Lady Bisons to come out and give the same top effort they have given each game this season on the way to a school program record 50 wins.
“We are definitely going to come out and give it everything we’ve got,” Ryman said. “These girls are not unrealistic, but at the same time they are not going to down without a fight. We are not going to roll over.
“We have invested entirely too much in this season to come out and not give it everything we’ve got and then see what happens. We are going against the No. 1 team in the nation. We have absolutely nothing to lose.”
Mental errors and physical errors early in the Alabama game Saturday were problems. Ryman is hopeful that her players will not be as nervous this time around.
“We can’t make the little mistakes, whether they are mental or actual errors, against a top-ranked team and expect to come out on top,” Ryman said. “We are going to try to stay relaxed and composed, play our game and try to execute the little things.”
Ryman knows that fatigue is going to be a factor. Alabama only had to play one game Saturday. If the Lady Bisons win the first game there will be a second game at 4 to decide the title.
The rigors of the tournament may also force an adjustment in Ryman’s plans for her pitchers. Kiihnl threw 261 pitches, 169 of them strikes, in 12.2 innings Saturday. In three tournament games, through 19.2 innings, she has thrown 378 pitches, 251 for strikes.
Ryman said that Kiihnl, Alaina Jacobson and Christen Campbell could all see time on the mound against Alabama.
“We’re going to have to be realistic about it,” Ryman said. “We will use Whitney, but I don’t know if it will be in a starting role. “If it is we’ll see how much she has in the tank and go as long as possible. We may use her in a relief role and get some good innings out of someone else.”
The Lady Bisons are 50-12. Alabama is 50-9.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.