Whitney Kiihnl has been the ace of the Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball staff, but Ashley Anderson and Kristen Sturdivant were given long looks as the fall season began Sunday at Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro.
Kiihnl started and Sturdivant closed out a 2-1 loss in the first game. Kiihnl, a senior right-hander, pitched five innings. She struck out five and gave up one run.
In game two Anderson and Sturdivant split time on the mound. Anderson, a redshirt freshman left-hander, pitched 6.2 shutout innings and struck out three. Sturdivant, a sophomore right-hander, gave up four runs, but the Lady Bisons held on for a 5-4 win.
“In our intra-squad games she has shown signs of being very good and then she has gotten hit decently hard in some of them,” Lady Bisons’ coach Kristin Ryman said. “I think coming into the game it was hard to tell exactly where she was but we felt good about it.”
At 6-foot-2 Anderson has a strong physical presence on the mound. She missed last season due to an injury but has returned the mound as a harder thrower.
“She has physical presence on the mound,” Ryman said. “I’m very excited about what the season could bring for her.
“The thing that is a little scary about her right now is that she is not throwing all of her pitches yet. We are keeping it simple right now until she masters the ones she is throwing.”
Sturdivant is making the adjustment to pitching after spending most of her time at first base. A 6-footer, Sturdivant also is a strong presence inside the circle. She threw 2.1 innings. She allowed five runs and did not strike out a batter.
“This is something totally new to Kristen,” Ryman said. “She basically has been pitching since August and we are already throwing her into games.
“She is giving us everything that she’s got. There are obviously some things she still needs to work on. We don’t need her to strike people out. We just need her to throw strikes and try to get trust her defense behind her to get outs.”
The Lady Bisons defense made some mistakes, but there were also some impressive plays. Center fielder Bree Thurman and right fielder Caroline Mason both made outstanding throws.
“Bree and Caroline have been known to have good arms,” Ryman said. “Shelby Cunningham really worked on her arm strength during the summer and is world’s better than she was at the end of last season. Brianne Welch covers a lot of ground as well and we are working on her throws.”
Freshman infielder Gracey Aguirre also made some solid plays.
“Gracey is a very instinctive player,” Ryman said. “I think she is also going to end up being a big hitter in our lineup.”
Welch and fellow freshman Jordan Abell also were impressive at the plate in their collegiate debuts.
“We made some mistakes, but this is fall ball,” Ryman said. “We are going to make mistakes. The biggest thing I want to see right now is if we are making mistakes that we are making them being aggressive. I want us to learn from them and not make them in the spring.”
Mason and transfer Kelsey Cartwright each had three hits and a stolen base. Cartwright also recorded an RBI.
Mollie Mitchell pounded out two hits, including a double, and drove in two runs. She also stole a base.
Aguirre, Thurman and Bridgette Begle each had two hits. Aguirre also added an RBI and a stolen base.
The Lady Bisons continue the fall schedule Saturday when they visit Chattanooga to face Calhoun Community College at 11 a.m. and Georgia at 1:15 p.m. as part of the UTC Tournament.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.