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Softball looks forward to the 2013 season

Monday, January 28, 2013
by Mark McGee

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-When the 2013 softball season starts Lipscomb Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman doesn’t want her players to have “failures to communicate”.

It didn’t work for Paul Newman in the movie “Cool Hand Luke” and it certainly won’t work for the Lady Bisons team that features eight new faces.

After two intrasquad scrimmages Ryman likes what she is seeing, and hearing, on the field.

“We are getting better and better at communications,” Ryman said. “And with multiple new players on the field that is always something to work through. I think everyone is starting to figure out their roles a little more.

“Communication is a huge part of the game for anyone on the field. We are just trying to work through that.”

Freshman Mickey Bell and junior Haley Elliott are both getting long looks at catcher. How well each one can control a game on the field will be a key.

“For either one of them this will be the first year getting the majority of the time catching,” Ryman said. “There is a lot more to catching than just sitting back there and framing and blocking, receiving the ball and throwing people out.

“While they are both good at a lot of those things there is still a lot of work to be done in getting their feet quicker and understanding the game at this level. They have to know how to communicate with the pitchers and know what needs to be said in certain situations. We have been working a lot with them one-on-one. We want them to take it to the next level.”

The infield is expected to be the same as last season with junior Kristen Sturdivant at first, senior Kelsey Cartwright at second, junior Bridgette Begle at shortstop and either junior Rena’ Cothron or sophomore Gracey Aguirre at third.

“Rena’ has been so solid defensively the last two years and her hitting has really improved,” Ryman said. “She is making really solid contact right now. She has a great eye at the plate. She is going to work the count. She is a great hitter with two strikes on her which is something that is hard to teach.

“Gracey is a natural. She gets the job done. She has a good arm. She is a good defender. We can’t go wrong with either one of them at third.”

The outfield situation is less settled. Senior center fielder Bree Thurman, sophomore left fielder Brianne Welch and junior Shelby Cunningham return. But freshmen Brittany Elmore and Heather Montgomery and sophomore transfer Paige Neely are also in the mix. Also getting a look is freshman Dee Baddley.

“We have worked with Paige Neely in both the infield and outfield, but at this point we think she is a better fit in the outfield,” Ryman said. “Brittany, Heather and Paige are all very talented and they are all very quick. They just lack some experience.

Four of the seven practicing in the outfield regularly are new. Ryman admits the situation is complicated.

“We are working on the mechanical things like angles and learning how to get the most out of their footwork,” Ryman said. “We have to get both of our center fielders, Bree and Paige, to continue to be more vocal and that is something they have been better at the past few days.”

The scrimmages have allowed junior transfer Heather Parker, sophomore Ashley Anderson and freshman Tanner Sanders to get in extensive work on the mound.

“Our hitters have been able to see true movement on pitches,” Ryman said. “They all three have different looks and that is good for our hitters. We are taking advantage of our live pitching as much as we can.”

The Lady Bisons open their season Feb. 8-10 on the road at the Houston Hilton Plaza Classic hosted by the University of Houston.

“We want them to make everything they do be productive in practice,” Ryman said. “There are little things that can be done to make practice run smoother like hustling to pick up balls so we can spend more time on the defensive side of things.

“We don’t want them to overthink everything they do. We have a really competitive group. Over the next week-and-a-half we want to get into as much of a game mode as we can and try to prepare as best we can for the really good competition we are going to see in Houston.”

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