The Lady Bisons, 1-4, will participate Saturday and Sunday in the eighth annual Panther Invitational hosted by Georgia State in Atlanta. Also participating are Appalachian State and Memphis.
Games are being played at Bob Heck Field. The Lady Bisons get an early wake-up call for the second tournament in a row as well.
At 9 a.m. Saturday the Lady Bisons will face Appalachian State, 0-6. Georgia State, 4-2, will play against the Lady Bisons at 11:15 a.m.
Sunday the Lady Bisons face Memphis, 3-2, at 9 a.m. The rest of the schedule will be announced based on seeding.
“All three of these teams are solid teams,” Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman said. “All three have started off playing tough schedules.
“We are going to have to go out with some better matchups to find some ways to win.”
Hitting is a concern early for the Lady Bisons. Sophomore Breanna Thurman leads the team in hitting with a .417 average and a four-game hitting streak. She also has a team-leading .563 on base percentage.
Catcher-third baseman Mollie Mitchell has three runs batted in and three doubles. First baseman Vanessa Medina has the only home run so far this season.
“We have to limit our strikeouts,” Ryman said. “We have to be more aggressive at the plate. We faced some outstanding pitchers in the first five games of the season, but I think we got better as a whole as the weekend went on. We have to understand what the pitcher is trying to do.
“We have to continue to make adjustments. We have to get the most out of our swings. Some of that was young players being nervous and working out some kinks and some of it was not being aggressive enough.”
Junior pitcher Whitney Kiihnl leads the Lady Bisons on the mound. She has 27 strikeouts in 24.1 innings. She is 1-3 with a 1.73 earned run average. Teams are hitting a combined .207 against her.
“We have talked to Whitney a lot about staying within herself, doing her thing and letting the rest of it happen,” Ryman said. “It is not that she pitched that bad.
“She really is fine right now. She doesn’t have to go out and do anything spectacular.”
Freshman pitcher J.J. Nelson made her college debut on the mound at the Red and Black Showcase last weekend at the University of Georgia. Ryman thinks that Nelson will come back stronger this weekend after some tough experiences on the mound.
“J.J. learned a lot about what the college game is like,” Ryman said. “There are no holes in one-through-nine in a batting order.
“She has to be able to self-correct on the mound and not think about it too much. She has to be able to work herself out of jams. She is absolutely capable. It is going to be a consistency thing for her.”
One of the changes was the moving of Mitchell from catcher to third base for two games.
“That is something we are going to continue to work on,” Ryman said. “As long as Haley Elliott continues to be a presence in the batter’s box we have to keep that as an option.
“Do we want to pull Mollie from behind the plate? No. She is our field general and we love her back there. But sometimes you have to find a way to put your best lineup and your best defense out there.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.