NASHVILLE, Tenn. – One shutout is nice. Two are even nicer. And when four pitchers combine to collect all of those zeroes it just doesn’t get any better.
Such was the case for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball team Saturday afternoon at Draper Diamond. In the opening doubleheader of the fall exhibition season the Lady Bisons shut down Tennessee State 1-0 in game one and 6-0 in game two.
“I always like shutouts even though they are fall games,” said Lipscomb assistant coach Megan Smith, who works primarily with the pitchers.
Game one was a complete eight-inning game. The nightcap was seven innings.
Senior Heather Parker and freshman Taylor Neuhart, both right-handers, each pitched four innings in game one. Senior Ashley Anderson, a left-hander, threw four innings in game two. Freshman McCarley Thomas, a right-hander, closed out the day with three innings of work.
Sophomore Tanner Sanders is sidelined for the fall with an injury.
It was the first time that Smith, in her first year on the Lipscomb staff, had been able to watch the pitchers work in a game setting against another team.
“I think for a first outing they all did a good job,” Smith said. “Each one of them has different strengths. They didn’t seem to be affected when runners were on base. If there was an error, or anything that could have pulled them off of their game, they worked through it. I especially liked that.
“This was a great chance for me to figure out what pitches are going to work for them, what counts we can use them in and what we need to work on in the future to be ready for the spring.”
Parker started off the fall where she left off last season. She and Sanders threw most of the innings last season and both put up solid numbers.
“We were struggling to find the zone at first,” Smith said. “So we changed the pitch call to figure out what pitch Heather could throw that would be called a strike.
“Her pitches are good. We have to make her stronger mentally. It’s the little things like making fewer mistakes, making her pitches move even more and knowing when to throw a certain kind of strike.”
Neuhart’s ability to throw a changeup is going to be one of the keys to her success.
“Taylor has a great changeup,” Smith said. “We are just trying to solidify some of her pitches. We are making small tweaks to make them even better.
“She is a very well-rounded pitcher. I am pleased with her first outing. I think this gave her some confidence. We will keep working and keep getting better over the next six games this fall.”
Anderson showed a great deal of confidence on the mound as well as the ability to throw the ball with increased velocity on a consistent basis.
“I think Ashley is having fun,” Smith said. “We have addressed her mentality on the mound. She has really taken to it well and bought in. I give a lot of credit to her.
“She is more relaxed. When you are loosened up you are faster. She is more fluid and that makes her faster.”
Thomas had an emotional day. She was a friend of Isaac Phillips, a Lipscomb freshman who passed away suddenly Friday night.
“McCarley came out and went after it,” Smith said. “You never know what you are going to get out of freshmen and I think both she and Taylor came out and played the game.
“They didn’t look like freshmen. They didn’t look scared. They were just glad to play.”
Rena’ Cothron, making the transition from third base to catcher this season, played all 15 innings behind the plate. Lipscomb head coach Kristin Ryman liked what she saw from Cothron.
“Rena’ has come such a long way in her catching in such a short period of time,” Ryman said. “She caught in high school a decent amount so it is not like we are throwing something totally new at her.
“But after three years of college ball we are asking her to focus on a new position. That is a lot to throw at somebody. She has handled it extremely well. She brings durability and leadership back there. She is going to be better with experience. She is the only player who played every single inning. I am pretty impressed.”