Lipscomb Lady Bisons left fielder Mackenzie Tucker is not going to hit the longest home run. She isn’t going to produce an eye-popping batting average. But as one of only two juniors on the team this season she has developed into one of the more consistent players on the team. And while consistency doesn’t do much for the media, it provides great comfort for coaches.
“Mackenzie consistently puts balls in play,” Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman said. “When she gets two strikes she stays confidence and battles and battles. She makes the pitcher throw as many pitches as possible.
“Mac has been that player all year that hasn’t always been in the spotlight. We have had such a strong senior class and a strong sophomore class. She has been kind of floating around in the middle. She doesn’t get recognized as much."
Tucker is batting .265 for the season, but she was one of the statistical leaders in the Atlantic Sun Tournament. After failing to get a hit in game one, she had at least one hit in each of the last four games as the Lady Bisons won the tournament for the first time ever.
She batted .400 with six hits in 15 at bats. She twice had two hits in a game. She scored a run in all five games and also had two runs batted in.
Ryman is expecting more of the same from Tucker this weekend as the Lady Bisons travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the NCAA regionals. The Lady Bisons will face UAB from Conference USA in the first game at 3:30 Friday. Host Alabama, the No. 1 seed overall in the tournament, will play Alcorn State in the first round of the double-elimination regional.
“We are depending on her to move runners and to try to get on base any way she can,” Ryman said. “Being in the lineup everyday and being in the role that she is in has helped her be more confident.”
Tucker, like many of her teammates, has quietly worked behind the scenes to improve. She has struck out only 23 times in 162 at bats. Last season she also struck out 23 times, but she only had 114 trips to the plate.
“She is one of those who works has hard as anybody on the team,” Ryman said. “She always comes to practice ready to go.
“She is a smart player. She understands the game. She understands what she is trying to do in different situations. I will give her the green light to drop light to drop a bunt if she wants to or to slap or swing away. I let her go with what she feels comfortable with at the moment.”
Tucker’s consistency at the plate, combined with the need to put shortstop Courtney Billington in a position to drive in more runs, resulted in a move to the No. 2 spot in the order.
“At the start of the season Mac was hitting in the eighth or ninth spot for us,” Ryman said. “We had Courtney batting in the No. 2 spot.
“When we went to the Hawaii tournament we were struggling a little bit with consistency in the middle of the order. We decided to drop Courtney down into more of an RBI role. That opened up the two spot. Mackenzie was swinging the bat well at the time and seemed to have a lot of confidence in the box.”
The ability of Tucker to produce as the second hitter helped to bolster an already imposing batting order.
“Mac’s confidence has nothing but go up,” Ryman said. “One of the things that had kept her from being a regular starter in the past was her consistency at the plate. She has worked extremely hard to be more consistent.”
Tucker came to the Lady Bisons as a center fielder. But that position was already held by Lauren Dortwegt, a senior first team All A-Sun performer, so Tucker moved to left.
“Defensively, she is becoming more solid in left field, but she is probably a more natural center fielder,” Ryman said. “She has worked really well with Lauren out there.
“She has always been a good outfielder, but she is finally coming into her own out there. She has made some outstanding catches. The transition from center to left is a little tougher than people realize. It is a totally different angle.”
Tucker and Megan Rottler are the only juniors on the team.
“Everyone notices the seniors and sophomores because they are the ones with the higher averages and more standout numbers,” Ryman said. “To have her step up this year has been a huge lift to both our batting order and out outfield.
“We are going to continue to rely on her next year as well. The experience she has gained the second half of the year is going to help her. She has had so many more at bats this year. That is going to really pay off for her next year as well.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.