“We don’t need a hero,” Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman said. “We have to come out and try not to do too much. We can’t press. We don’t need anybody to do anything extra.
“As a whole we don’t need anyone to try to do more than they have already done. It is going to be a bigger challenge this time around, but we don’t have to try any harder than we have been.”
Friday afternoon at 3:30 the Lady Bisons, 48-11, will face UAB, 36-20, at the Alabama Softball Complex at University of Alabama, The host Crimson Tide, the No. 1 seed overall in the NCAA Tournament with a 48-9 record, will face Alcorn State, 24-24, in game two at 6.
The Lady Bisons split with UAB at Draper Diamond April 20. They won the first game 1-0 behind a no-hitter effort from Whitney Kiihnl. They lost game two 7-5.
UAB’s Blazers finished fourth in Conference USA. The Lady Bisons won both the regular season and tournament championships in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Saturday the winners of Friday’s games will play at 1:30. The losers of Friday’s games will play at 4. In the third game the winner of game four will play the loser of game three.
Sunday’s championship game begins at 1:30.
The regional is double elimination. Games will be video streamed through Alabama’s athletics web site at rolltide.com. Brent High and Brian Ryman will provide audio streaming at lipscombsports.com.
The Lady Bisons, UAB and Alcorn State are all three making their first NCAA Tournament appearances. Ryman has not addressed that issue with the team.
“There are uncertainties associated with being in a regional and those teams are all going through the same thing,” Ryman said. “We just need everybody to go out and do their job.”
Stormy weather: The Lady Bisons had to cut their practice session short by approximately six minutes due to lightning in the area Thursday.
Each team was allotted 75 minutes of practice and the Lady Bisons went through a spirited, fast-moving session.
“We got in the work we needed,” Ryman said. “We had a fast-paced practice. We were go, go, go. We grabbed some water and hustled back out on the field.
“We switched gears from one thing to the next. Everybody mentally was everywhere. We wanted to get in a lot of reps. In a game situation they will have a chance to catch their breath from one play to the next.”
The lightning, which was soon followed by heavy rain, forced the Lady Bisons to go inside to work on their hitting.
“It is exciting to be here and finally get out on the field,” Ryman said. “It was good for the girls to get out and be in a bigger stadium and get a feel for what it is like.”
The Lady Bisons found the surface of the field to be a little harder than they expected. Apparently, it had not been watered Thursday. After a late afternoon and night of rain it is expected to be softer.
“The infield was harder and very, very quick,” Ryman said. “It took some getting used to today.”
The Lady Bisons followed their usual practice of eating pasta the night before a game, making a stop at DePalma’s Italian Café. “We need to stay relaxed and stay confident,” Ryman said. “We need to calm our nerves a little bit.”
Kiihnl earns another honor: Kiihnl was named a First Team Southeast Region selection for the Louisville Slugger/National Fast Pitch Coaches Association. It marks the first time a Lady Bisons softball player has been named to a region team.
“I’m glad she was named to the first team,” Ryman said. “It is very well-deserved. She was up against pitchers from the University of Tennessee, Florida State, North Carolina, Florida and North Carolina State.
“This shows that other people have a lot of respect for what Whitney has been able to do this year. Her numbers speak for themselves. She knows she doesn’t pitch in the SEC or ACC. I think her numbers would be even higher if she did. She threw a one-hitter against California and a two-hitter against Kentucky. Both were shutouts.”
Ryman stresses that Kiihnl’s influence on the team goes beyond her 31-3 record, 0.73 earned run average, 12 shutouts and 319 strikeouts.
“We feel fortunate to have her here,” Ryman said. “The personality she brings has helped this team find its identity.
“We have a diverse group of personalities. But Whitney has her moments where she keeps everybody smiling and laughing. She is a special kid.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.