NASHVILLE, Tenn. – One of the constants for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball program under coach Kristin Ryman has always been a challenging schedule of nonconference schools.
The trend continues Wednesday night at 6 when Kentucky visits Draper Diamond for a single game. The Wildcats are No. 20 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll and ranked No. 21 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25.
The Lady Bisons are 14-15, 3-6 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Kentucky is 23-8, 5-4 in the SEC.
This is the third Lady Bisons game against a Southeastern Conference team this spring. They have lost to Mississippi State and Tennessee, both on the road. The Purple and Gold shut out Kentucky 3-0 Feb. 27, 2010 in a tournament at Chattanooga, Tenn.
“This falls right in line with us trying to schedule tough,” LU coach Kristin Ryman said. “We have told our players we don’t schedule games to try to bolster our record.
“We obviously want to get our wins. But we schedule games to find ways to make ourselves tougher mentally and to step up to those challenges so that when we see good teams in the conference we are prepared for that.”
Ryman doesn’t have to do anything special to get her team mentally prepared to play Kentucky. Several of the Kentucky players were part of the Atlanta Vipers softball program that Lipscomb players Ashley Anderson, Mickey Bell and Brianne Welch played for in travel softball. LU’s Rena’ Cothron and Heather Montgomery both played at Beech High School in Hendersonville with Kentucky’s Ginny Carroll.
“There will be some excitement in playing former teammates and wanting to prove what you can do,” Ryman said. “And Kentucky is an SEC school. When you do get those opportunities you want to get the most from it.
“We are going to have to execute every phase of the game to come out on top. We are the underdog and that is fine.”
Ryman expects her team to be tested against Kentucky on several levels. Nikki Sagermann leads the Wildcats with a .389 batting average followed by Kara Dill (.354), Lauren Cumbess (.344) and Griffin Joiner (.325). Joiner also has seven home runs.
Kelsey Nunley is the leading pitcher with a 14-3, 1.91 earned run average. Cumbess is 6-2 with a 2.52 ERA.
“Kentucky is a team that can adjust well,” Ryman said. “They have really good athletes. They are smart players. They are very well-coached.
“They have players that can run. They have players that can hit with power. They pitch well.”
Ryman is considering using all three of her pitchers – Tanner Sanders (9-5, 2.85), Heather Parker (4-8, 2.49) and Anderson (1-2, 5.42) in the game.
“Our pitching is going to have to be on,” Ryman said. “We might have to use multiple pitchers simply because after seeing one pitcher for so long Kentucky is going to adjust no matter how good you are.
“They are so good in so many areas. We have to be ready to throw anything at them that we need to and try to find a way to win.”
The Lady Bisons will be in Fort Myers, Fla., Friday and Saturday for a crucial three-game Atlantic Sun series with Florida Gulf Coast. Friday’s doubleheader begins at 4 p.m. Saturday’s game starts at 11 a.m.
“We will head to Florida Thursday,” Ryman said. “We won’t have a lot of time to prepare for Florida Gulf Coast.
“We will prepare mentally and on paper as coaches for what we are going up against. From a players standpoint there is no better preparation than being in game situations and working through things in live game settings.”