KENNESAW, Ga. – It has been said that talent often develops in quiet places. In the case of Lipscomb catcher Rena’ Cothron she has quietly developed her talent and is making a noticeable impact both at the plate and behind it.
Cothron, a senior from Hendersonville, Tenn., had not caught since high school. Primarily a third baseman with the Lady Bisons she has not missed an inning behind the plate this season.
She heads into this weekend’s Atlantic Sun series with Kennesaw State batting .343, fourth best on the team. She had two hits in the 8-4 win at Chattanooga Thursday night, including an RBI-double. She is tied with Paige Neely for the team lead in doubles with seven.
The Lady Bisons are 24-4, 6-2 in the A-Sun. Kennesaw State is 15-12, 5-1 in the conference. Saturday’s doubleheader begins at noon at the Bailey Softball Complex. The third game of the series is Sunday at noon.
“Rena’ is the kind of player who can get overlooked,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “She is on a team of good hitters. And when you are hitting in the seventh or eighth spot sometimes it is easy to kind of get missed in the shuffle.
“She is never going to lead us in home runs. She may or may not lead us in average. But she keeps getting key hits. She has great at bats in clutch situations."
Ryman points to Cothron’s maturity as one of the reasons for her success. With maturity comes patience, especially at the plate.
“She battles counts,” Ryman said. “She is not one who is going to be chasing balls out of the zone very often. She has good strike zone awareness.”
Despite catching for the first time ever in college, Cothron views herself as an experienced catcher.
“She is doing a very good job catching,” Ryman said. “In her mind she is an experienced catcher even though it has been several years since she caught. It is like jumping back on a bike for her.
“She knows what it is about. We worked on some little stuff in the fall to get her ready.
Defensively, after fall practice, I knew she was going to be fine back there.”
The big thing for Cothron is the mutual respect between her and the pitchers.
“All the pitchers trust her,” Ryman said. “They all respect her and that can be tough to earn as a catcher. She has the kind of relationship with all of our pitchers where she can tell them when to get their heads back on straight. She can also put her arm around them and pump them back up again.
“As a player she already had that kind of respect from her teammates, but to gain it as a catcher that quickly is impressive. It says a lot about her.”
Cothron, who saw her playing time limited last season, is showing the joy of being back in the lineup on a regular basis.
“She owns the position,” Ryman said. “She is happy to be contributing on a regular basis again.”
Crucial series at Kennesaw
Ryman has one word to describe the Kennesaw State Owls – “scrappy”.
“Their one-through-four hitters are quick and scrappy players,” Ryman said. “They are going to put pressure on our defense with their speed and their ability to put the ball in play. Defensively, we are going to have to be sharp.”
The Lady Bisons are led by Neely with a .400 batting average. Five regular players, including Cothron, are batting in the .300 range. Brianne Welch is second at .365. Kelsey Cartwright is hitting .337 followed by Haley Elliott at .333 and Kristin Sturdivant at .310. Knocking on the .300 level are Brittany Elmore (.296) and Mimi Cartwright (.295). Gracey Aguirre, who is sidelined with an injury, is batting .350.
Amanda Henderson leads Kennesaw State in the circle with a 12-4 record and a 1.89 earned run average. She has struck out 103 batters in 81.1 innings.
“Henderson is one of the best pitchers in the conference,” Ryman said. “They put it all on her. We likely could see her twice this weekend.
“She has really good pitches. We could get into a pitcher’s duel with her. She is going to get some strikeouts. Offensively, we will need to find ways to break through and make something happen.”
Left-hander Ashley Anderson, 10-0, is one strikeout away from tying her career season high. She had 59 in 26 appearances in 2012. She leads the team with a 1.65 ERA.
Right-handers Tanner Sanders (8-2, 3.35 ERA) and Heather Parker (6-2, 3.09) are also key parts of the pitching rotation.
Kennesaw State also has seven hitters with averages in the .300 range. Angie Dascoli is the leader with a .382 average.
Kennesaw State also leads the overall series 10-9.
“They have some good hitters with good numbers,” Ryman said. “They don’t have a tremendous amount of power. Most of the power hitting comes from two or three players.”