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Success will be in the details for the Lady Bisons

Friday, February 08, 2008

Feb. 8, 2008

Success will be in the details for the 2008 Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball team.

"I preach to our players that it is the little details that make the difference," said head coach Kristin Peck. "It is all about the little bit of extra effort. It is about paying attention and working harder when they are getting tired. It's about the little bit of extra attention in class. The list goes on and on.

"We talk about how their attitude and effort carry over into everything they do whether it is with their family, in the classroom or on the softball field. I think we have become much more of family as a softball team."

The Lady Bisons open the 2008 season on the road this Saturday and Sunday at the Georgia State Tournament in Atlanta. The Lady Bisons play Tennessee-Martin at 9 a.m. Saturday followed by Georgia Tech at 1:30 p.m.

Sunday they face host Georgia State at 11:15 a.m. They will play another game in the afternoon at a time still to be determined.

The most important thing for Peck and her coaching staff is that the players are listening to them and practicing what is being said.

"It's fun when you know when you show up everyday for practice that we have a group of kids who want to learn and are ready to learn. They trust us and are buying into what we are telling them. That makes our job easier."

The Lady Bisons depended heavily on freshmen last season. And unlike many teams that have to depend on youth the Lady Bisons were winners, earning a berth in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament 9-8-1 conference record, 25-28-1 overall.

The Lady Bisons lost 3-2 to ETSU and 4-0 to Stetson in the first day of the double elimination tournament at Stetson Univeristy in Deland, Fla.

Despite their youth the Lady Bisons led the Atlantic Sun in hitting with a .304 average, the only team in the league to bat over .300; third in fielding (.966) and seventh in pitching (4.03 earned run average).

Peck, returning for her third year as head coach, isn't worried about a drop off for her team.

"Our sophomores know it is going to be tougher on them this season because they aren't going to be a surprise like they were last year," Peck said. "But they are very aggressively-minded. They are very confident.

"They have something to prove. I don't feel like they think they proved all that they wanted to prove last year. Along with our older players and our freshmen they want to win a championship."

During fall practice Peck and assistant coaches Amber Wood and Lexi Myers talked to the players about what they are going to have to do in order to be the Atlantic Sun Tournament champion and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

"I'm not worried about them falling off this year," Peck said. "I think it is all their mentality. And mentally they are pretty tough kids."

Defense will be solid again

Lost in the offensive skills of last year's team and the concerns about the health of the pitching staff was the fact the Lady Bisons were third in the conference with a .966 fielding percentage, third best in the Atlantic Sun.

Peck admits even she was surprised at how well the Lady Bisons performed in the field.

"Defensively, we have our entire infield back with the exception of our second baseman, which is very exciting for us," Peck said.

Freshman Megan Rottler will step in to replace Kristie Sirus at second.

"Megan is going to be a very athletic presence," Peck said. "She is very gritty type of player. She gets after it. She loves to play.

"We are adding her to an already strong infield. She can fit into our lineup in multiple ways as a contact or power presence."

Freshman Katie Brokmeyer and senior Jennifer Allsup will handle the catching duties.

"They will complement each other behind the plate," Peck said. "They both give different looks behind the plate. They both have strengths and weaknesses. We have worked on all of those.

"We feel as though Brokmeyer has only tapped into her potential as a catcher and hitter, and she will see a lot of time on the field as a freshman," Peck said. "Jenn does an excellent job in working with our pitchers. Jenn has a strong knowledge of the game, and we need her to have a strong year for us on both defense and with quality at-bats."

Senior Heather Collins, a first team All A-Sun performer last season, returns at first base. She was fourth in the A-Sin hitting last season with a .372 average, third in runs batted in with 53 and tied for third with Keese in home runs with 14.

Collins is a preseason All-Conference pick by the A-Sun coaches.

"Heather really showed what she was capable of through her power and consistency last year at the plate," Peck said. "She continues to impress with her phenomenal glove and consistent play at first base, as well."

Sophomore Abby Keese returns at shortstop and sophomore Kellie Sirus will split time with Campbell at third base.

Keese was sixth in the conference in hitting with a .363 average.

"After finishing in the top ten in the A-Sun in several offensive categories, we feel that Abby has taken some steps forward offensively and defensively," Peck said. "She appears much more confident and poised at her shortstop position and has really started to understand her role on this team."

Kellie Sirus was 25th overall in hitting with a .310 average. Kellie was also sixth in RBI with 44.

Versatility will be a plus

Peck has several players who can play a combination of positions. She likes the fact that she has a number of options, something she lacked last season,

"We have people who have practiced at other positions and they are going to be comfortable there," Peck said. "The players around them are going to be comfortable playing with them."

One of the prime examples is sophomore Christen Campbell. She is primarily a pitcher, but when she is not on the mound she plays first base. She batted .269 last season, playing in all 54 games.

"Christen is one of the most versatile players in the A-Sun," Peck said. "She is a regular hitter in our lineup and starter in the infield when not on the mound. "

Sophomore Kellie Sirus might see time at both third base and in the outfield.

"Kellie had a fantastic freshman year as our regular No. 4-hitter, and should again provide a big punch in the middle of our lineup," Peck said. "With one of the best arms on the team, she proved to be very versatile this fall, and although most of her time will be at third base, she may also see some time in the outfield."

Sophomore Lauren Dortwegt will once again anchor center field. She was ninth in the conference in hitting last season with a .354 average.

"Lauren had a very impressive freshman year as our leadoff hitter, earning All-Conference honors...the first freshman in program history to ever accomplish that feat," Peck said. "She is able to do some amazing things with her speed and is a very consistent threat at the top of the order. Lauren gained a ton of confidence last year, and she has really started to improve every part of her game. "

The other two outfield positions are still somewhat unsettled with freshman Mackenzie Tucker, Brokmeyer, sophomore Katie Haab, sophomore Abigail Craig and senior transfer Sara Simons all in the mix.

Simons made the move from the University of Missouri for her final season. She played in 31 games last season, starting 13. She finished the season with a .234 batting average.

"We are anxious to see Sara perform in our lineup," Peck said. "She understands the game and is a competitor. Sara has big game experience which will help as the season progresses. We look for her to be a key contributor and leader in the outfield and a competitive hitter at the plate. She will without a doubt strengthen our lineup."

Last season Haab and Craig were used in reserve roles.

"Katie filled a very important role for us off the bench last year," Peck said. "We spent most of the fall working with her in the outfield after she spent last year at second base.

"Craig keeps finding ways to improve," Peck said. "During the fall, she proved to be our most improved hitter, and she continues to impact with her speed and aggressiveness. She will find ways to get on the field this spring."

Pitching staff should be deeper

Christen Campbell was the workhorse for the Lady Bisons last season as a freshman, often pitching both ends of a doubleheader. She finished with a 17-16 record and a 2.91 earned run average. She struck out 174.

"We are expecting her to have another good year," Peck said. "She has added a new pitch and still tweaking that a little bit.

"Christen played such a huge role in our success last year and carried us on the mound. We were all shocked that she did not receive any postseason honors after winning 17 games as a freshman.

Kim Jacobson made great strides during fall workouts. She is expected to provide a strong second arm to the rotation. Last season she finished 7-9 with a 5.49 ERA and three shutouts.

"Our coaching staff agrees that right now Kim is the best pitcher she has ever been," Peck said. "We think she is throwing harder than she has ever thrown. Her movement is much more consistent. She needs to keep all that going. We will need more consistency out of her this year on the mound and that has been much of her focus this fall."

An unexpected third arm has been the addition of Alaina Jacobson, a sophomore transfer from the University of Missouri. She was 3-5 last season with a 5.44 earned run average.

"Alaina is going to a pitcher who gives us key innings when we need them," Peck said. "She is a very different look from our other pitchers.

"She is not a speed pitcher who is going to blow it by you. But she moves the ball a lot. She is a smart pitcher. She understands what we are trying to do with each batter. She has big game experience from her time at Missouri."

Christy Grisham could be the most surprising pitcher this season if she is fully recovered from her injury problems.

"We don't want to push her too quickly," Peck said. "She is such a talented pitcher. We want to make sure that she comes back the right way."