April 28, 20131234567RHE
Win: PARKER (12-11) 7.053347
Loss: BRANDT (8-9) 2.156650
HAWN (STET) 301010
OWEN (STET) 311101
HATCH (STET) 301000
BRANDT (STET) 311201
BEGLE (LIP) 401100
NEELY (LIP) 211121
AGUIRRE (LIP) 401000
ELLIOTT (LIP) 111301
April 28, 20131234567RHE
Win: OWEN (21-7) 7.033317
Loss: SANDERS (16-9) 6.054132
OWEN (STET) 312000
BELL (LIP) 311201
ELLIOTT (LIP) 101000
Thurman leads Lady Bisons into A-Sun battle
Friday, April 26, 2013
By Mark McGee
Thurman leads Lady Bisons into A-Sun battle

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It hasn’t been the senior year that Bree Thurman expected, but she is on track to end her career on a strong note.

Thurman, a team captain, lost her job in center field to start the season after being a major contributor to the team as a freshman, sophomore and junior. A self-admitted emotional person, she chose to handle the situation without any dramatics.

“I decided to take it one day at a time,” Thurman said. “I wanted to be a good example to my teammates.”

But she does apologize for getting a little misty-eyed when she talks about how people reacted to how she dealt with the disappointment.

 “More people complimented me on my character and the way I have handled the year than ever told me I was a good athlete,” Thurman said.

Thurman quickly realized when she started at Lipscomb that earning and retaining a starting spot would be difficult.

“I had played soccer and basketball, but I was more naturally talented in softball,” Thurman said. “Like most players who come to an NCAA Division I school I was the best player on my team. But when I got here I realized that all of the players are good. It was the first time I had to work hard to earn a starting spot and retain it.”

The early part of the season also helped her deal with the fact that her time as a softball player is going to end, hopefully with the Lady Bisons in the NCAA Tournament. When she is honored Sunday at Draper Diamond on “Senior Day” she will be at peace with giving up the game she has loved since she was a 4-year-old T-ball player.

“Senior Day” will cap a big home weekend for the Lady Bisons. Weather-permitting, they are scheduled to play Stetson in a doubleheader Saturday beginning at 2:30. Saturday has been designated as “Think Pink” day to show support for efforts to find a cure for  breast cancer. Sunday’s game starts at 1 p.m.

LU coach Kristin Ryman has also been impressed with the way that Thurman has dealt with the ups and downs of her season.

“Bree was put in a tough spot this year,” Ryman said. “She was not in the role she wanted to be in early on or the role she had been accustomed to being in.

“It was tough for her to be in a position of leadership and not be on the field every day. You feel like you are not contributing as much as you want. But she kept working hard and doing little things from a leadership standpoint.”

Ryman thinks that the way Thurman went about her business as a player made a strong impression on her teammates.

“I think it has been huge for our team the way she handled that rough part of the season,” Ryman said. “Overall, she has helped spark us the second half of the season. That is big.”

Thurman has contributed to the team since arriving as a freshman from Spring Hill (Tenn.) High School.

“In her freshman year she got a decent amount of playing time on our championship team that went to the NCAA Regionals,” Ryman said. “She was the only freshman that year that got any kind of significant playing time. That spoke volumes for her and her athletic ability.

“Her sophomore year she stepped right in as the starting center fielder and took it on as her own.  She had a really good year in the lead-off spot in the order. She set a lot of career highs that year with six home runs and the highest batting average she has had (.271).”

She had survived the sophomore slump, but her junior year was a tough one for Thurman at the plate,

“Going into her junior year she hit a speed bump,” Ryman said. “She was our everyday centerfielder, but she struggled a little offensively. It was a frustrating year for her.”

Thurman found herself in a fight for a position as a senior. Ryman tried to talk Thurman through it.

“We talked on multiple occasions,” Ryman said. “I knew it was eating her up.

“I kept telling her she was going to get her opportunity at some point. I told her to stay the course and keep working hard and at some point she would get her chance. The key was for her to be ready for it.”

That chance came March 13 between games at Austin Peay. Assistant coach Mollie Mitchell told Thurman she would be starting in game two.  She has started 29 games in center field this season. The Lady Bisons are 19-10 in those games.

“We gave Bree a chance and she took advantage of it,” Ryman said. “She had been on the verge of getting more time and more at bats because she had been working hard on her hitting. It had been slowly coming together for her more in practice.

“There are so many different ways you can handle that situation. She had a good attitude. As frustrating as it was for her, it gave her an opportunity to get back in the lineup the second part of the year. I am proud of how she handled herself.”

Thurman enters the Stetson series with a .253 average. She has connected for six doubles, two triples and two home runs for a .437 slugging percentage. She has nine runs batted in and has stolen nine bases. She has at least one hit in her last three games.

“For me, when I calm down and relax at the plate, I can hit,” Thurman said. “I see the end coming so I want to be relaxed.

“Hitting at this level is situational. You don’t just go up there trying to get a big hit.”

Thurman will leave a strong legacy due to her multiple talents offensively and defensively. She stressed that she learned to be a smarter hitter in college. She has always viewed her defensive skills as her “bread and butter” but she learned to be more aggressive in the field where she has a career .940 percentage.

“Bree has a fire about her in how she plays,” Ryman said. “She is a competitor. We have had some really competitive kids in our program, but Bree is easily one of the most competitive and tough-minded kids we have had.

“She has the speed. She has the pop in her swing. If you are in a fight you want her on your side.”

The Lady Bisons have won 10 of their last 14 games and are 28-21 overall, 14-7 in the conference. Stetson is 29-18, 11-11 in the A-Sun. The Hatters have won nine of their last 11 games including the last five in a row.

“Stetson is a team with a lot of momentum,” Ryman said. “We are a team with a lot of momentum. We are both on a collision course and somebody is going to win out.”