Pitching makes strides in fall ball
Friday, October 12, 2012
By Mark McGee
Pitching makes strides in fall ball

One of the biggest questions facing the Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball team is how to replace ace pitcher Whitney Kiihnl.

Redshirt sophomore left-hander Ashley Anderson returns from last season. She has been joined by a pair of right-handers - freshman Tanner Sanders and Heather Parker a junior college transfer from Wallace State-Hanceville.

Coach Kristin Ryman and pitching coach Paige Cassady have been giving all three pitchers work in fall games. Thursday night at Tennessee State the trio combined for a doubleheader with a 5-4 win in game one and 4-2 victory in the nightcap at Tiger Stadium.

Anderson started game one and scattered four hits. One of the goals of the coaching staff was for Anderson to work on certain pitches.

Sanders started the seventh inning of game one and picked up the save by striking out the side. She pitched the last two innings of game two. She struck out four batters and allowed one home run in the second game.

“We fully expect Tanner to use her rise ball and her speed to dominate the competition,” Cassady said.  “Right now, we are trying to take care of her health-wise just to make sure we are reserving as much of her ability as possible when it is not needed.

”We are refining her pitches. We want her to use the most effective movement. She is young and getting her to that mentality is our goal. But, on the other hand, her mentality of just wanting to throw it and getting after it is really beneficial. I don’t want to overload her with specifics.”

Parker pitched the first five innings of game two and picked up the win with a strong performance. She struck out five batters.

“Heather looked great,” Cassady said. “She had one bad inning. But of our three pitchers she has the most movement consistently with all of her pitches. She is very much in the zone all of the time.

“She has a little bit more flexibility and the ability to vary what we can do sequence-wise in pitching. That is really unique.”

Anderson does not rack up a large number of strikeouts, but she does get batters to put the ball in play. She depends on her teammates to provide a strong defense, but Cassady wants her to boost he strikeout numbers. She finished with three strikeouts in six innings.

“I am really trying to push her right now to get her speed up and to maximize the talent that she has,” Cassady said. “I would like to see her produce more swings and misses and strikeouts and having batters make less frequent contact.

“She has been effective. But if the ball is put in play and our defense isn’t on its game Ashley is going to struggle.”

Defense was a concern for Ryman as the Lady Bisons struggled in the field, especially early in game one.

“For the most part it wasn’t decision making as much as it was straight out booting the ball and bad throws,” Ryman said. “Those are things that are more within our control.

“We work a lot on defense. I think the talent is absolutely there. We just made some mistakes. We didn’t look very composed, especially in the first game.”

The offense showed some bright spots as Kelsey Cartwright slammed a two-run homer over the left field fence, Brianne Welch connected for a double to deep center field and Parker hit a double off of the wall in left field. The Lady Bisons had seven hits in game one and five in game two.

“We have been working on getting better quality at bats,” Ryman said. “We want them to go up and take their hacks, not second guess things and not be timid. We are doing a much better job of that.

“We have to make we are choosing good pitches to swing at. We have some hitters in our lineup who are good enough contact hitters that they are going to hit anything thrown up there. It is a matter of whether they would hit more effectively or with more power if they had more discipline to choose a pitch they can be successful with.”

The Lady Bisons are back in action Saturday afternoon at 2 when Middle Tennessee visits Draper Diamond for a doubleheader.

Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.