What better ways to spend a first day in Hawaii.
The Lipscomb Lady Bisons, 19-2, are in Honolulu for the Hawaii Spring Fling. They arrived in the Pacific paradise late Monday night. They started the day with practice Tuesday before heading off to have some fun.
The Lady Bisons are ranked 24th in the Ultimate College Softball Poll and are getting votes for the top 25 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll and the EPN.com/ USA Softball Coaches poll.
“We got on the field a little bit and got familiar with it,” Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman said. “It kind of reminds me a little bit of a conference tournament atmosphere. We are in a warmer and sunny place. We got here a day ahead of time.
“It’s an unbelievable experience for all of them. Most of them spent the day at the beach. We have addressed the fact that is gorgeous here, but we are here to play softball against two teams that we feel like are going to make us better regardless of the end result.”
Wednesday the fun is over for the most part. The Lady Bisons open the tournament against No. 12-ranked California-Berkeley at 9 p.m. CDT. They play Hawaii, a team knocking on the door of the top 25 in couple of polls like the Lady Bisons, at 11 p.m. Games are being played at Rainbow Wahine Stadium.
Cal-Berkeley is 19-4 this season and is perennial power in the Pac-10. Ryman sees no weaknesses in the team.
“They have been to the World Series,” Ryman said. “They play in one of the top two softball conferences in the country. It is not just a West Coast team known for good softball. It is literally a team that is one of the top teams in the country every year.
“They are a very quick team. They run the bases extremely well. They have a ton of stolen bases. We know they are going to put the pressure on if they get on base. From one through nine they hit the ball well. Their defense is solid. They have two strong pitchers. It is going to be a battle. We are excited about the challenge.”
Cal has four players batting .400 or better. Jace Williams leads the way with a .444 average. Cal enters the tournament on a 10-game winning streak. The Lady Bisons have won 17 of their last 18.
Leading the way on the mound for Cal are freshman Jolene Henderson with a .72 ERA and a 7-2 record; and junior Valerie Arioto with a 10-2 record, 1.57 ERA.
Hawaii, 18-9, plays in the Western Athletic Conference also offers its own challenges for the Lady Bisons who are anxious to prove they are good enough to be considered on a higher level in terms of competition.
“Hawaii has some good regional experience,” Ryman said. “They have a good softball tradition.
“They have hit the ball extremely well in terms of both average and power. That will be a challenge. They also have two good pitchers.”
The two pitchers are sophomore Stephanie Ricketts (8-5, 2.70) and Kaia Parnaby (9-4, 2.10) lead Hawaii.
Sophomore Whitney Kiihnl leads the Lady Bisons on the mound with a 13-0 record and 0.08 earned run average. She has five shutouts and three no-hitters including one perfect game.
The Lady Bisons are hitting .339 as a team. Three starters are hitting at the .400 level. First baseman Kellie Sirus is batting .407. Second baseman Abby Keese and pitcher-designated player Kiihnl are each hitting .400.
“We have seen some good pitching this year, but to go up against some very strong pitching will really challenge our hitters to improve with every at bat,” Ryman said. “Playing better competition is going to let our girls, even our older girls, will mature through this process.”
Thursday they play another doubleheader. They face Cal-Berkeley at 8 p.m. and Hawaii at midnight.
Friday they face Cal-Berkeley again at 9 p.m. Saturday they play Hawaii at 5 p.m. A team from Tokyo was originally scheduled to be part of the tournament but dropped out.
“The experience we are going to get in one day of this tournament is going to go a long way for our older girls as far as leadership the rest of the year and for our younger girls in terms of experience,” Ryman said. “We are going to come back better prepared for play our conference games.”
Live stats are running throughout the tournament through Hawaii athletics.
Hawaii's games on Wednesday and Thursday will be broadcast live on a Honolulu TV station, KFVE. There is a nominal fee to watch.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations