“We got off to a good start getting two good wins over quality programs,” Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman said. “I feel like those wins have set the tone for us.”
The Lady Bisons will face tournament host South Alabama at 2 p.m. Sunday. Senior Alaina Jacobson is expected to get the start on the mound.
The first day of the tournament was cancelled Friday due to a combination of snow and rain.
The Lady Bisons opened with a 3-0 shutout against Western Kentucky and then closed with a 4-2 win over SIU Edwardsville at Jaguar Field.
Senior Christen Campbell went the distance on the mound for the Lady Bisons against Western Kentucky. She gave up four hits and struck out four. She only threw 67 pitches, 52 for strikes.
“Western is a good hitting team with a lot of very good athletes in the lineup,” Ryman said. “Campbell threw an outstanding game. She did a great job of getting ahead of batters.”
The Lady Bisons only managed four hits with Lauren Dortwegt, Abby Keese, Mollie Mitchell and Whitney Kiihnl each getting one hit. Keese, Mitchell and Kiihnl each drove in a run.
“Whitney is probably going to hit more for us this year,” Ryman said. “Last year we felt she wasn’t quite ready to be in the lineup every day.
“Realistically, she could have had more at bats. We were so wrapped up in keeping her as an option to come in and pitch that we didn’t want to use her as a pinch-hitter.”
One of the biggest elements that Kiihnl brings to the mix is her speed. She will probably share the position with Vanessa Medina.
“Vanessa is more of a power threat,” Ryman said. “Whitney brings the speed asset. She is quick as anybody we have. We just need her to put the ball in play on the ground.”
Dortwegt opened the season by being hit by a pitch in the first inning against Western. Courtney Billington sacrificed Dortwegt to second. Kellie Sirus grounded out to third, but Dortwegt managed to move to third. Keese singled to left to bring Dortwegt home.
The Lady Bisons scored the second run in the fourth inning. Sirus reached first on an error by the shortstop and then stole second base. Mitchell singled to center to score Sirus.
In the seventh Bree Thurman reached base on an error to deep center field. She was able to reach third on the play. Kiihnl singled to left to bring Thurman home.
It was the first collegiate start for Thurman. She played right field.
“Bree showed a lot of nerve in her first couple of at bats,” Ryman said. “She was very aggressive. She struck out a couple of times. After that we told her to calm down. She finally settled in a little bit and the nerves were gone. In the second game she continued to show signs of better at bats.”
The Lady Bisons spotted SIU Edwardsville a 2-0 lead in the second inning. The runners reached base on walks and then advanced on passed balls. A single up the middle, the only hit of the game for SIU Edwardsville, scored both runs.
“They have a very successful program,” Ryman said. “They won 40 games last season. We knew they were going to be a big time challenge right off of the bat.
“We had a very slow start. Whitney was, at times, all over the place. She was having trouble with her consistency and trying to find the zone.”
Kiihnl walked four batters early in the game. She managed to strike out nine batters.
The Lady Bisons scored all four of their runs in the fourth.
“I pulled all of our hitters aside and said, look if you are going to swing the bat, then get your money’s worth,” Ryman said. “I felt like our swings were a lot more aggressive that inning. We led off the inning with four straight hits.”
In SIU Edwardsville game Sirus slammed her first home run of the season and drove in two runs for her first multi-RBI game. Keese hit a double. Dortwegt, Billington and Campbell also singled as the Lady Bisons had five hits.
The Lady Bisons are supposed to play their home game Tuesday against Alabama-Birmingham though weather could become an issue.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations