The Lady Bisons opened the Hawaii Spring Fling in Honolulu with a 1-0 win over then No. 12-ranked California-Berkeley. They lost the next five games in the tournament, losing twice to California and falling to host Hawaii three times, including a 5-4 loss in the seventh inning in the tournament finale Saturday.
Coach Kristin Ryman thought that overall it was a beneficial trip. The Lady Bisons enter the week with a 20-7 record.
“A lot of people see the one win and think how great that one win was,” Ryman said. “And it was. I’m very proud of our girls. Cal and Hawaii are both going to be in regionals. They both might be in super regionals.”
“A lot of people see the five losses and kind of wonder what happened to us. We talked as a team at the end of the tournament. I feel much more comfortable about where our team is right now going into conference play than I would have if we would have stayed at home or gone to a tournament somewhere else.”
Despite the losses the Lady Bisons are still receiving votes in the top 25 polls. Both the Lady Bisons and Hawaii received three votes in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Poll. The Lady Bisons earned five votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 poll. Ironically, Hawaii received four votes. In the Ultimate College Softball poll the Lady Bisons received eight votes.
“We were challenged every single pitch of every game to be on our game,” Ryman said. “It cost us. But we grew up a lot through that process.”
Four Lady Bisons, second baseman Abby Keese, shortstop Courtney Billington, outfielder Mackenzie Tucker and pitcher-designated player Whitney Kiihnl were named to the All-Tournament team.
“I thought it was a well-deserved honor for all four of them,” Ryman said. “We were in every game except one and gave ourselves the opportunity to win.
“We are climbing the ladder a little more every day. We learned we are not where we want to be yet. There is always room for improvement.”
Ryman has been stressing attention to details all season. The Lady Bisons learned that keeping mistakes to a minimum is especially important when playing the more high-caliber level teams.
“When you are playing teams that are as good or better than you, or teams that maybe aren’t quite as good as you but are close, we can’t afford to make little mistakes the give them opportunities to stay in games,” Ryman said. “There were some big plays last week, but a lot of the details came into play in giving up a go-ahead run or a lead-off hit in an inning.
“If nothing else we learned that when we have control of a game we have to put a team away. We have to find little ways to keep the pressure on them rather than letting them come back and put the pressure back on us.”
Ryman thinks the Lady Bisons also learned how to keep their composure.
“We were the quote, unquote no name team,” Ryman said. “Cal and Hawaii had the pressure on them to not let us beat them. We didn’t have the pressure on us.
“We learned in the last Hawaii game that when the game is tight we have to keep our composure. We have a lot of experience on the field. We have to keep our composure and just make plays.”
The Lady Bisons are back in action this weekend with a pair of Atlantic Sun doubleheaders at Draper Diamond. Friday they play East Tennessee State starting at 4. The doubleheader is also scheduled as "Strike Out Cancer" day with several special activities planned as part of breast cancer awareness. Saturday they will host USC Upstate with the first pitch scheduled for 2.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.