Competition is strong for catcher, infield spots for Lady Bisons
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Competition is strong for catcher, infield spots for Lady Bisons
The Lady Bisons are heading into this season without a senior on the roster, but with a great deal of experience in the infield.

The youngest position on this young team will be catcher with freshmen, Mollie Mitchell and Vanessa Medina, vying for the starting spot. “They are both going to play this year,” said Lady Bisons coach Kristin Peck. “A lot of it is going to come down to hitting and who is getting it done.”

Peck is not concerned about having to start a freshman behind the plate.

“Both have the talent to play the position and they both want to play,” said Peck. “They both want to be out there. They know it is going to be up to them. With it being competition between the two of them they know one of them is going to win it.

“It is great to have an experienced catcher. They are both going to continue to develop those qualities. We will probably call pitches from the dugout until our catchers learn the game. We will hold off on giving them that responsibility.

Mitchell was a three-time All-State selection from Suwanee, Ga. She was a two-time co-Most Valuable Player selection at Greater Atlanta Christian School.

“Mollie has a great arm,” said Peck. “She has a very quick release behind the plate.

“She was really raw coming in. We have really worked with her and fine-tuned some things. We have worked to get her to the college level. She is only going to get better.”

Peck expects Mitchell to be strong both defensively and offensively this season.

“It is going to take her a little time to get into the system,” said Peck. “She works hard.”

Medina is from Bakersfield, Calif. , where she was All-Area First Team catcher, a two-time Most Outstanding Defensive Player and the captain of her high school team.

“Vanessa’s hitting has improved tons since she got here,” said Peck. “She comes from a very competitive high school program. She played in a good program in the summer. She is used to winning.”

Medina is also fine-tuning her game defensively as she makes the adjustment to the college game.

“She has great form behind the plate,” said Peck. “She has worked very hard to understand how to catch.”

First base is also an open position due to the departure of Heather Collins, a record-setting hitter for the Lady Bisons. Peck admits that the position is up for grabs with a number of candidates.

Kellie Sirus, a junior who is a preseason All-Conference selection, has been working at first base. She has spent most of her time at third. She was member of the A-Sun All-Freshman team in 2007 and was a Second Team All-Conference pick last season. She batted .385 overall, fourth best in the conference, and .400 in conference games only, tying for sixth best.

“Kellie is working both first and third,” said Peck. “It has been a transition for her at first since she is seeing the ball from a different angle. Kellie is someone who has to be in our line-up. “

Abby Wilson, a transfer from Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Arizona this season, has been making the adjustment to a new program, but is also in the mix at first. In two years at Chandler-Gilbert she drove in 77 runs, and slammed 32 doubles and nine home runs.

“Abby has really worked hard this semester to take as much in as she can,” said Peck. “She is ready to go. A lot of it for her is going to come down to hitting. She has a ton of talent hitting. She is somebody who can also be used as a designated person.

Mitchell and Medina are also getting some work at first.

Starting second baseman Megan Rottler returns for her sophomore season. She started and played in 54 of 55 games last season.

“Megan has really matured a lot both offensively and defensively,” said Peck. “Last year she stood out defensively, but struggled some at the plate.

“She has some punch with her swing. She has a good swing. It is a matter of pitch selection and a few mechanical things here and there. She worked extremely hard in the fall and summer. She is going to be pushing to be on the field every day.“

Courtney Billington, a freshman, made an impact in the fall both at the plate and in the field. Billington was Co-MVP for her team at Wilson Central in Mount Juliet, Tenn. She also served two seasons as team captain.

“Courtney’s upside is huge,” said Peck. She has good size for a middle infielder. She is very quick. She covers a ton of ground. She has a very good arm. She gets rid of the ball quickly.

“She is pushing to play at both shortstop and second. She does things right. She carries herself well. Early on it is going to be what is our best scenario all around as to where she is going to fit.”

Starting shortstop Abby Keese, a preseason All-Atlantic Sun selection, is back for her junior season. Keese was an A-Sun All-Freshman Team choice in 2007. Last season she led the team with 14 home runs and earned a spot on the All A-Sun Conference Second Team.

“We have opened up the possibility of Abby playing some other places as well,” said Peck. “We have to have Abby’s bat in the lineup regardless of where she is defensively.

“I think she has stepped up her game at short which is awesome to see. She is somebody who could be our everyday shortstop again. She could be our second baseman. She could be in the outfield. We have worked with her at first base. She has been open-minded to it.”

At third junior Christen Campbell will be at third when she is not pitching. Sirus will fill the spot when Campbell is not on the mound.

“It is another healthy, competitive battle that started when they both got here as freshmen and has continued,” said Peck. “Christen is so athletic. She has a good arm at third. She reads situations well. Kellie also plays great over there as well. They have continued to make each other better which is great to see.”

(Next: Outfielders).