Heather Parker is heading home to Alabama with a new honor.
Named Atlantic Sun Pitcher of the Week, the junior right-hander from Pleasant Grove, Ala., will get a chance to perform in front of some familiar faces Tuesday night when the Lady Bisons travel to UAB for a doubleheader starting at 4.
Parker is 6-8 with one save for the season with a 2.67 earned run average. She has struck out 80 batters in 97 innings. She has made 21 appearances including 11 starts. She transferred to Lipscomb this season after two years at Wallace State in Hanceville, Ala.
“Heather has done a really nice job,” LU coach Kristin Ryman said. “She has been a very reliable piece to our pitching staff. We can turn to her as a starter. We can turn to her in relief.
“She is going to get outs for you. Our defense, for the most part, has played pretty well behind her. She has more strikeouts this spring than we expected to see. We know she is going to give us a chance to win.”
Ryman points to the experience that Parker brings to the staff. She is a solid pitcher physically and she also has a deep understanding of the game. Pitching coach Paige Cassady likes Parker’s ability to put place her pitches accurately.
“She is a very smart pitcher,” Ryman said. “She knows what she wants. When coach Cassady calls a pitch Parker knows where to put it. She knows what the goal of the pitch is. They work really well together.
“That’s important. When you have the ball in our hand every single play you better have a good head on your shoulders. You better know what you are trying to do with every pitch.”
Parker earned her pitcher of the week honor for her two wins and save as the Lady Bisons swept a three-game A-Sun series at Florida Gulf Coast.
“She was hitting her spots more consistently,” Ryman said. “More often than not she was working ahead in the count.
“She was making them hit her pitches. She did a lot of things to help herself out. She didn’t work her way into too many jams. And we obviously hit well behind her. Everything clicked together.”
Ryman is quick to point out that Parker often works out on her own. She adds that Parker always has a purpose and goal with each of her workouts.
“Heather knows where she has to get better,” Ryman said. “She knows where she is weak. She is not afraid to confront her weaknesses and work on them.
“She doesn’t get too up and she doesn’t get too down. She is very level-headed. She rolls with the punches. That makes her a better pitcher because she can handle the pressure. She can take a game and take charge of it and run the table.”
Tanner Sanders is 10-6 with a 3.10 ERA for the Purple and Gold. She has 85 strikeouts in 108.1 innings.
“She and Tanner both pitched well at Florida Gulf Coast,” Ryman said. “That is what we needed out of them.”
They play in two different conferences, but the rivalry between Lipscomb and UAB is a deep one.
The Lady Bisons are 17-16 overall. UAB is 22-7.
In 2010 the Lady Bisons beat UAB twice in the NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa after splitting a doubleheader with the Blazers earlier in the season.
In 2011 a doubleheader between the two teams was a washout. The same thing happened in 2012, but the two managed to find a date to reschedule with the Lady Bisons losing both games of a doubleheader.
UAB holds a 7-4 advantage in the series all-time.
“There is a lot of respect between the two teams,” Ryman said. “It is a very competitive rivalry. UAB is a high-quality opponent. They are always competing to play on a higher stage. They do a lot of things really well.”
UAB’s pitchers have a combined 1.77 ERA, the best in C-USA. Lauren Webster leads the staff with an 8-2 record and a 1.07 ERA. Lannah Campbell is 6-1 with a 1.64 ERA. Leigh Streetman is 8-4 with a 2.60 ERA.
“They have one of the best pitching staffs that we will probably see all year,” Ryman said. “They can win with any of the three of them. They use them extremely well.”
Whitney Fletcher paces UAB at the plate with a .351 average. Caitlin Attfield is batting .344 and Kate Armstrong is close behind with a .333 average.
“They can hit,” Ryman said. “They have some speed. They can hit the long ball. It is an athletic team that grinds it out. They have a lot of experience.”
The Lady Bisons are led at the plate by Brittany Elmore with a .348 average. She has 10 multiple-hit games and a nine-game hitting streak.
Elmore has 22 stolen bases and ranks 17th in the NCAA with an average of .67 per game. The Lady Bisons are 18th as a team nationally in stolen bases with 65, an average of 1.97 per game.
Kristen Sturdivant is batting .301 and has a career-high and team-high eight home runs and six multiple-RBI games. Gracey Aguirre has a .300 average and a six-game hitting streak.
“We know we are going to be challenged,” Ryman said. “That is ultimately what we want out of our non-conference schedule. We have to go out and make things happen and be at the top of our game.”