The Lady Bisons, the defending Atlantic Sun Champions, open the season Friday at the Red & Black Showcase at the University of Georgia in Athens.
“I think we are ready to go play,” said Lady Bisons’ coach Kristin Ryman, the 2010 A-Sun Coach of the Year. “We are really excited. The girls are sick of scrimmaging and practicing. They are ready to be in game mode.
“We are ready to throw the young ones into the fire. We need to let them go out and get some experience. We need to let them make mistakes and have them learn from those mistakes.
“We have enough older girls who have experience and will lead the way. I think the younger girls will follow along.”
The games will be played at Jack Turner Stadium. Under a revised schedule the Lady Bisons will start at 8 a.m. Friday when they face East Carolina. At 10 a.m. Friday they will play Iowa.
Saturday the Lady Bisons will challenge Illinois State at 2 p.m. At 6 they will take on Maryland.
Sunday the Lady Bisons will close out the weekend with a 2 p.m. game with host Georgia.
The weather has been a factor for the Lady Bisons during preseason practice. Ryman would have liked to have worked more outdoors, but she is not overly concerned.
“We have gotten out enough,” Ryman said. “I would have preferred being out a little more. But we have had some great indoor practices where we have gotten a tremendous amount done.”
The Lady Bisons will have a different look from last season in many ways. Junior catcher Mollie Mitchell and junior shortstop Courtney Billington, both preseason all-conference selections, return. But first base will feature either redshirt sophomore Vanessa Medina, who sat out most of last season with a knee injury, or freshman Kristen Sturdivant.
Freshman Haley Elliott will also get some playing time behind the plate or possibly as the designated player.
Third base has been a battle between freshman Rena’ Cothron and sophomore Lacy Walker.
Freshman Bridgette Begle is expected to get the start at second.
In the outfield there are four players vying for starting roles led by senior Mackenzie Tucker. Also competing for spots are junior Caroline Mason, sophomore Bree Thurman and freshman Shelby Cunningham.
Pitching will once again be on the shoulders of junior Whitney Kiihnl, both the A-Sun Player and Pitcher of the Year in 2010. Also expected to get time on the mound are sophomore Ali Watson and freshman J.J. Nelson will also get some work. Freshman pitcher Ashley Anderson is a medical redshirt this season.
“I think we have a tougher schedule this year,” Ryman said. “We played Cal and Hawaii last year, but this year we have teams like Georgia and Georgia Tech and every team that is playing in this first tournament. We will be able to see how we match up against higher level teams.
“I am anxious to see what the freshmen are going to do for seven innings. There are not many things that are going to intimidate this group. I think the freshmen are ready to prove to people that they can play, that they are good and that they do belong here.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.