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Monday, October 04, 2010Fall softball is about evaluating players more so than wins. For coach Kristin Ryman the evaluation period is even more important as she works seven freshmen into the program and tries to fill four spots on the field.
Saturday afternoon the Lady Bisons, the defending Atlantic Sun Conference champions, split a doubleheader scrimmage with Middle Tennessee State, winning the first game 4-3 and losing the second game 8-7.
Ryman got her first look at the freshmen under game conditions, something she had been wanting to do since fall practice began two weeks ago.
“Overall I was impressed with the way our freshmen hit,” Ryman said. “There were some at bats that weren’t as good in terms of quality that you would want, but it was our first games against another opponent.
“This group of freshmen is extremely talented. It is just going to take some time for them to grow together and gel with the rest of the group.”
Ryman is also experimenting with players at different spots on the roster. Several played multiple positions in the two games. In addition to working at third base Lacy Walker and Rena’ Cothron played a couple of innings in right field.
“A lot of what the fall is for is to see what the options are defensively,” Ryman said. “We have a good group of athletic kids again. When you have that versatility it would be dumb for me as a coach not to see what they are capable of in different spots in the fall.”
Molly Mitchell is expected to get some time at third base with Haley Elliott expected to catch a few games.
“As much as we want Molly behind the plate with her experience and leadership ability she also brings that athleticism which allows her to play third. We are going to keep that option open.”
Two freshmen, Kristen Sturdivant and Bridgette Begle, both hit home runs. Begle finished 3-for-7.
“They were both surprised,” Ryman said. “Bridgette was a little bit surprised at herself. She has shown a ton of athleticism at the plate, but her power has been more gap to gap. Kristen brings power at the plate. That was a good glimpse of what is to come from our freshmen.”
All four runs in game one were driven in by freshmen.
“Elliott had a big two-RBI triple to opposite field which was great for her,” Ryman said. “Shelby Cunningham had a two-RBI single in the first game. To get the run production out of our freshman group was really impressive.”
Cunningham is one of four players in the mix for the three starting positions in the outfield. She is the only freshman involved. Mackenzie Tucker, the lone senior; sophomore Bree Thurman and junior Caroline Mason are also vying for playing time.
“We have worked a lot with Shelby in left field,” Ryman said. “She runs well and she fields the ball well. One of the points we are trying to get across to her, and to all of our outfielders, is to be more aggressive and take charge.
“We are depending a lot on Mackenzie as the only senior. We are also trying to transition into that new phase with a new person in center. Shelby has done well so far. We are trying not to push too hard. Making mistakes are part of it. They have to grow just like our program has grown.”
Some veteran players who had good days at the plate were Whitney Kiihnl, 4-for-8; Courtney Billington, 4-for-7; and Vanessa Medina, 2-for-4 with a double. Cothron was 2-for-3 and also had a walk and sacrifice bunt.
The Lady Bisons head to Knoxville Saturday and Sunday for the Tennessee Tournament. They will play Chipola at 9 a.m. Saturday morning and Milligan at 1 p.m. Sunday they will face Chipola at 10 a.m. and Tennessee at 2 p.m.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.