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Peck thinks new recruits will help take team to another level

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nov. 28, 2007

Lipscomb University softball coach Kristin Peck has signed four players she thinks could have an instant impact on her program in 2009.

Peck announced the signings of Courtney Billington from Mount Juliet, Tenn.; Whitney Kiihnl from Courtland, Miss., Mollie Mitchell from Suwanee, Ga.; and Caroline Mason from Mount Juliet, Tenn.

Billington is a middle infielder and outfielder for Wilson Central High School. She is known for her versatility. She was named First team All-Midstate last season as a junior. She hit .454 and hit .697 with runners in scoring position. She only committed six errors in the infield.

In 2006 and 2007 she was a Second Team All-State selection. She was a member of the 2006 and 2007 All-District Team.

Her club team, the Nashville Cruisers, won the 16-U ASA National Tournament last summer in Sioux Falls, S.D.

"Courtney can play anywhere," Peck said. "I think she has been a little bit under the radar. She wasn't recruited as highly as maybe she should have been.

"She is an outstanding student from a great family. She can hit. She typically hits from the No. 1 to No. 3 spot on her summer and high school teams."

Mason, who plays outfield for Mount Juliet High School, led the State of Tennessee in home runs last year with 19 as a leadoff hitter. She was named to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association First Team as a junior. She also was a First Team All-Midstate selection. Offensively, she also batted .398 and stole 27 bases.

Mount Juliet High School has been the TSSAA 3-A Runner-Up in 2006 and 2007. The softball team finished 41st in the country overall with a 46-11 record.

"Caroline is a very good player," Peck said. "She possesses all the tools. She has good size. She is a right-handed hitter who can hit with power. She can also run from the right side. She is going to have a big impact on our program. She has a lot of talent. We are excited about all the tools she brings."

Kiihnl is a pitcher and outfielder who plays for South Panola High School. She was named Gatorade High School Player of the Year in Mississippi as a junior as she posted 500 strikeouts and a 0.09 earned run average. She allowed only three earned runs in 231 innings.

She threw a no-hitter and a two-hitter to win a best-of-three series with Oak Grove, the defending state champion. South Panola, the 5-A State Champion, was rated 48th nationally with a 33-4 record.

Kiihnl was named First Team All-State. She was also named Miss Softball for 2007 in Mississippi. She was a 2007 Louisville Slugger/NFCA High School All-South Region Second Team pick.

"Whitney is going to be that next level type of pitcher for us," Peck said. "She is more of a power type pitcher. She also has great movement. She throws harder than anyone we have right now."

Kiihnl can also hit as well. She is a "slapper" who can run as well as hit. She could play in the outfield for us when she is not pitching.

"When you talk to her she is most unassuming and humble kind of athlete that I have ever been around," Peck said. "She is not going to tell you about herself. It is `yes, mam' and `no, mam' all the time. She comes from a great family and has been well-coached.

"She loves the atmosphere here at Lipscomb and how she is going to fit into that. She has such a great outlook on things."

Mitchell, a catcher for Greater Atlanta Christian School, plays high school softball in the fall. She has just completed her senior year. She can also play first and third bases.

She was named First Team All-Gwinnett County four times. She was also Gwinnett County Co-Defensive Player of the Year for 2007.

Mitchell has been named to the All-Region Class 2A First Team three times. She is a two-time Class 2A All-State First Team selection. Results from this season are still pending.

"Mollie is a hard worker," Peck said. "She is one of those who can come in and develop very quickly.

"She has great size. Hittingwise she is somebody who could be in our lineup right away. She possesses a lot of tools behind the plate. She has a strong arm. She is quick. I have not doubt she is going to get better and better."

Peck is proud of all four of her signees, but she is especially pleased that two of the four players are local.

"I believe that is going to be big for us in attracting more of the better local kids," Peck said. "We are in a fight every year with all of the local Division I teams, not only in Middle Tennessee but statewide. The University of Tennessee is going to get its first pick, but all of the rest of us are recruiting the same players. It is nice to walk away with two that I know are going to do well for us.

"We hope they will bring more people out to our games. There are a lot of good players in Middle Tennessee. Hopefully, attracting two players of their talent will help us in recruiting."