“Nobody likes to hear it, because it's dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same - pitching.”
- Hall of Fame Major League manager Earl Weaver
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – This fall Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball coach Kristin Ryman has been getting long looks at four pitchers.
Returning to the mound for their senior seasons are Heather Parker and Ashley Anderson. Working to get a chance to contribute on the mound are freshmen Taylor Neuhart and McCarley Thomas. They are under the tutelage of new assistant coach Megan Smith.
Sophomore Tanner Sanders is limited in workouts this fall due to an injury.
All four of the healthy pitchers are expected to see time in the circle Wednesday night when Trevecca Nazarene visits Draper Diamond for a doubleheader starting at 4:30.
“I think we are off to a really good start this year having those three core pitchers back,” Ryman said. “We just have to get Tanner healthy.
“As a group they are working hard and they are working efficiently. They are learning how much control mentally they have in a game. But they are also learning where they need to be mentally…not trying to do too much and not getting too far ahead of themselves.”
Ryman credits Smith, who has a masters with a concentration in sports psychology, with providing a positive and constructive approach to the mental game of each pitcher.
“Megan has done a really good job of talking mentality with them and helping them each grow in that area,” Ryman said. “She is an even-keeled type of personality.
“She will get feisty and fired up when she needs to, but she is much more even-keeled kind of like I am. The girls react well to that. They know what to expect one day to the next.”
Smith is working with the pitchers as a group, but she is also tailoring messages based on each one’s personality.
“Megan is going to tell them what they need to work on, but she puts a great deal of emphasis on coaching each of them the way they need to be coached according to what their strengths are,” Ryman said. “We always want to try to make the weaknesses stronger, but to a certain degree you have to play to your strengths.”
Ryman views the pitching depth as a plus, both in terms of the Atlantic Sun’s three-game series with each team as well as preconference tournaments.
“Even if all five of them are not at the point this spring where they can throw a full seven innings on their own; if they can throw a good four or five innings at a time that will help us,” Ryman said. “We can use them in combinations and we can keep them fresh.
“I would love it if they can throw a full seven. But if they can’t, having that depth will be important.”
Sanders is working as much as she can both on the field and in the weight room. Ryman expects her to be ready for the spring.
“Tanner is a workhorse,” Ryman said. “I told Megan that Tanner is going to take in as much as she can and try to learn and be better.
“I think that is going to play to her advantage as she comes back from the injury. She is not going to throw in any fall games, but hopefully she is to the point later this fall where she can be full go.”
Neuhart may get to start against Trevecca in one of the games. Her two appearances this fall have been in relief. Ryman wants her to cut down on her walks and let the defense help her out.
“Taylor is a perfectionist,” Ryman said. “We are trying to get her to work through some things. We want her to try to stay in the moment. It is good to be hard on yourself at some moments, but you can’t expect yourself to be perfect.
“She has very high standards. She is learning what it takes to from one inning to the next and one pitch to the next to be successful.”
Parker was a model of consistency last season. Her fall appearances have followed that same approach.
“Heather hits her spots more often than not,” Ryman said. “There is nothing flashy about her. Teams at times can watch her pitch and almost overlook her. I love it. She is a model of consistency.
“She has a good head on her shoulders. She thinks the game really well. She is a pitcher who has a plan in mind. On any given pitch she knows where she needs to put the ball. There is something to be said for someone who knows how to pitch.”
Anderson will be out to rebound from a season where injuries and illness gave her problems.
“If Ashley gets a ground ball she expects an out,” Anderson said. “She expects the defense to play well behind her.
“She is feisty. She wants to win. Right now, I think she is pitching with a chip on her shoulder. She wants to prove to us that she can do it.”
The Lady Bisons close out the fall schedule Saturday at 1 p.m. when Middle Tennessee visits for a doubleheader.