NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The pitching possibilities this spring for the Lipscomb softball team remind coach Kristin Ryman of the 2010 season. And that is a good thing.
That season the Lady Bisons won the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament and advanced to the NCAA regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where they advanced to the championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Lady Bisons close out their fall schedule Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. when Middle Tennessee State visits Draper Diamond. The Lady Bisons are 6-0 this fall with four victories by shutouts.
Seniors Heather Parker and Ashley Anderson will get work on the mound along with freshmen Taylor Neuhart and McCarley Thomas. Sophomore Tanner Sanders remains sidelined with an injury.
Back in 2010 Whitney Kiihnl, Christin Campbell and Alaina Jacobson formed a potent trio in the circle.
“Those three made a huge difference,” Ryman said. “That staff was shaped a little differently than our staff now.
“At that moment in time everyone knew Whitney was No. 1 and was going to be pitching more often than not. But once we got into postseason play, even though Whitney was still throwing the majority of the innings, we had viable options behind her.”
Based on the way the pitchers have worked this fall Parker, Sanders and Anderson will pitch in an as yet undetermined rotation. Neuhart and Thomas, both right-handers, are expected to be used as late inning replacements.
“There were three totally different looks from those girls in 2010,” Ryman said. “That’s what I think is very exciting about this year as well. We have three good, veteran pitchers with three very different looks.
“I don’t know if I would say any of the three right now is a dominating, clear-cut No. 1 pitcher,” Ryman said. “Everyone would love to say they have a dominating No. 1 pitcher like Whitney who was a national player of the year contender. At the same time, what we have this season is outstanding.”
Ryman has talked a lot this fall about options and versatility in reference to her players. She likes having so many options with her pitchers.
“I think there are so many pros to having three consistent pitchers who at any given time could be your No. 1 starter,” Ryman said. “With Ashley added into the mix with Heather and Tanner all of a sudden teams won’t know who to prepare for.
“It will be harder in the Atlantic Sun Conference season for teams to game plan for us in a three-game series. They won’t know what pitcher they are going to see each day. They are all three really good options.”
Sanders and Parker are both right-handers. Anderson is a left-handed pitcher. Ryman prefers that they each offer batters different challenges.
“Tanner is a lot more up in the zone,” Ryman said. “She is a harder thrower. She is that pitcher who is going to come at you.
“Ashley is a lot more down in the zone, plus she is a lefty which gives a unique look. She is 6-foot-2 and she has that presence on the mound.”
Anderson’s change-up has shown improvement this fall. She is working on a couple of new pitches as well. Ryman expects Anderson to develop into a game one or game two type of starter by the start of the spring season.
Parker is known for her consistency in the circle. She is demonstrating strong leadership as a senior.
“Heather is more of an in-and-out kind of pitcher,” Ryman said. “Mechanically, she is very sound.
“She understands the game well. She has a plan. She knows from one pitch to the next what she wants to throw. She hits her spots well. She is calm, cool and collected.”
Ryman is also pleased with the progress for Neuhart and Thomas.
“I think Taylor and McCarley have both taken some good steps forward this fall,” Ryman said. “There is a learning curve when you come in as a freshman.
“They both have potential to continue getting better. They are learning so much. How quickly they can make adjustments will determine how effective they can be.”