ORLANDO, Fla. – The Lipscomb Bison pitchers were tested in a variety of ways on the first day of the Citrus Classic at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex in Disneyworld.
Senior right-hander Whitney Kiihnl threw a complete game to start the tournament Friday as the Lady Bison prevailed 13-5 against Long Island-Brooklyn. They closed out the day under a hot tropical sun with a 9-2 loss to South Alabama behind the pitching redshirt freshman left-hander Ashley Anderson and sophomore right-hander Kristen Sturdivant.
Kiihnl struggled more than usual on the mound giving up six hits and six walks and also hitting two batters. She struck out five.
"I'm glad Whitney kept fighting and fighting through it," Lady Bison coach Kristin Ryman said. "We hit all the way through that first game and it gave Whit enough breathing room where she could relax."
Anderson pitched six innings against South Alabama, her longest outing of the season She allowed 14 hits and four walks. She also gave up a solo home run to Meghan Collins. Blair Johnson led with a game-high four hits.
"We wanted to get Ashley back out there," Ryman said. "We know she is going to have to pitch Saturday. That is one reason we didn't let her finish the game. As hot as it is we have to be smart."
In one inning, her first appearance of the season as a pitcher, Sturdivant did not allow a run. She hit one batter, but did not allow a hit.
"We never anticipated her having to pitch this year," Ryman said. "Whitney and Ashley are going to be our No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers. They are going to get the majority of the innings, but it was a good opportunity to get her out there. She got ahead throwing strikes and let our defense work behind her."
Ryman wants her pitchers to be more careful with how they approach batters.
"We have to get better with the free passes,:" Ryman said. "We had entirely too many walks and we hit too many batters. We have to get better as an entire pitching staff. It puts pressure on our defense."
Senior catcher Mollie Mitchell was the top hitter against Long Island with six runs batted in including a grand slam over the left center field fence in the second inning. She led the Lady Bison with three hits.
Second baseman Kelsey Cartwright slammed a two-run homer to left center with two out in the sixth.
Kiihnl helped herself out with a double to left to lead off the fifth inning.
The Lady Bison pounded out three singles in the first inning, but scored two of their three runs on an error by the pitcher.
The Lady Bison, who also lost to South Alabama in the Mardi Gras Tournament in Mobile, Ala., scored two runs in the first inning against the Jaguars on a two-run blast to left center. Cartwright, who had reached base on a double to left center, also scored.
But the Lady Bison failed to score again. In the final six innings they managed only four singles.
"We don't have to have huge home runs every time," Ryman said. "We just need to string some hits together. We have to have the mentality to swing the bat hard and get our money's worth, but there has to be a fine line."
"That is what South Alabama did. They had a line single, after a ground single and then another line single. They weren't big, big hits."
Despite losing to South Alabama again, Ryman took the opportunity with her players to continue to fine-tune the mental approach of the team.
"The effort was there," Ryman said. "We didn't have the same cutthroat mentality that we had in the first game. It wasn't the foot on the gas pedal, we're not letting up approach we had in the first game.
"And that is a big difference with this team. When we see the kind of mentality we had in the Long Island game there aren't that many people that can stop us."
The Citrus Classic continues through Sunday. The Lady Bison, 8-4, will face Penn State at 3:45 p.m. (CT) followed by Ball State at 6.
Sunday the Lady Bison close out the tournament against St. John's. First pitch is scheduled for 11:15 a.m., but is expected to change.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.