In 2008 the Lady Bisons tied for the A-Sun regular season championship under the direction of coach Kristin Ryman. They were picked by conference coaches in a preseason poll to win both the A-Sun regular season championship and the tournament championship.
“We are coming to the end of the season, but it was kind of nice for us to control our own fate,” Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman said. “Two years ago we tied for the regular season championship with USC Upstate and Florida Gulf Coast. It came down to the very last weekend.
"This time around we truly did the work. It is not over yet by any means. But I’m really happy with how we have stuck together so far.”
Ryman added that she did not address the fact that winning at Campbell could seal the championship. They have also not dwelled on the fact that the team has been receiving votes for the top 25.
“We really haven’t talked about how many games we thought it would take us to win the title or get into the tournament,” Ryman said. “We haven’t talked a whole lot about the national rankings, and that we have been jumping in and out and receiving votes.
“We want our girls to just relax and go out and focus on winning a ball game. We have no stipulations. We just want them to go out and win. We want them to go out and play ball and not think about anything else. We just wanted them to keep moving forward toward the title."
Ryman and assistant coach Lexi Myers informed the team that they were the regular season winners. Ryman admitted the Lady Bisons were excited, but not as excited as some might have expected.
“I feel like this is step one of our goals this year,” Ryman said. “Obviously, winning the tournament is the biggest goal right now. “They feel like they have accomplished something that we wanted to do. There were definitely smiles on their faces. But I didn’t see as much excitement as I expected to see. They were excited to get two more wins on the road. But they haven’t accomplished everything they want to do.”
The Lady Bisons are 16-2 in the A-Sun. They are 40-10 overall. The 40 wins are a new NCAA era high, breaking last year's record of 39 set last season. Under coach Andy Lane the Lady Bisons won 49 games in NAIA competition.
“One of my personal goals always is to win more games than the year before,” Ryman said. “This team has been four years in the making.
“When we are in tight games we have stuck to our game plan and found a way to come through. I don’t know if that is something that we did all that well the past three years. Winning 40 games is special, but knowing that we have gotten better every year is the most rewarding.”
Whitney Kiihnl picked up her 26th and 27th wins of the season. In game one she held Campbell to one hit and a shutout until the seventh inning when Amanda Miller hit a solo home run.
In game two Kiihnl combined with starter Christen Campbell for the Lady Bisons 25th shutout of the season. Campbell pitched four scoreless innings and gave up four hits. She walked one and struck out two. Kiihnl pitched the final three innings. She did not give up a hit. She struck out four.
The Lady Bisons scored two runs in the second inning of game one. With two outs Mollie Mitchell singled to left. Caroline Mason then singled to third base. Kiihnl hit her first triple of the season to left field to score both Mitchell and Mason. In the fourth the Bisons scored one run and another in the fifth.
Mitchell and Courtney Billington each had two hits. Kellie Sirus hit her 11th double of the season and Billington added her 16th.
In game two the Lady Bisons scored both of their runs in the sixth inning. Kiihnl opened the inning with a double to left. Lauren Dortwegt singled through the left side to move Kiihnl to third. Mackenzie Tucker reached base with a bunt single to load the bases. Kiihnl scored on a sac fly by Abby Keese. Billington singled through the left side to score Dortwegt.
Also hitting a double was Dortwegt, one of her team-leading two hits. The Lady Bisons only had five hits in the game.
“We definitely hit better in the first game,” Ryman said. “In game two we faced Campbell’s most experienced pitcher. “We finally found a way to win game two. We kept battling and battling. We finally came together.”
The Lady Bisons close out the A-Sun regular season at Belmont Tuesday at 1.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations for Athletics.