NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball coach Kristin Ryman hopes she has a lucky seven in the fold for her incoming 2015 recruiting class.
Ryman and her staff have added one pitcher, three catchers, two outfielders and a shortstop.
“They are a really great group,” Ryman said. “This class brings a good combination of power and speed.”
The new players are Kiley Aller from Holland, Ohio; Destinee Brewer from Wetumpka, Alabama; Malorie Giere from Lake Elmo, Minnesota; Khayla Green from Powder Springs, Georgia; Sarah Higgins from Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Mandy Jordan from Camden, Alabama and Jenna Pealor from Newnan, Georgia.
“A common tie with all seven of these girls is they are fantastic people and they come from fantastic families,” Ryman said. “They are outstanding students, and they are making the culture we have created with Lipscomb softball that much stronger.
“We have made it clear to them that they have an opportunity to come in and make a difference right away. They have a chance to be one of the strongest classes we have ever brought in, and best of all – they are all incredible fits for Lipscomb.”
In the circle
Jordan, a 5-foot-10 right-hander, is going to be counted on to come in as a freshman and be an impact pitcher right away.
“Mandy has an extremely bright future,” Ryman said. “She has the chance to be a very special pitcher here. We truly believe she is going to be a major difference maker.”
“She has a great combination of work ethic and drive. But she also has that confidence in her demeanor. She is a coachable kid.
“She throws decently hard, but also has very good spin and movement. She has all of the tools.”
Jordan set a school record for strikeouts her sophomore year at Wilcox Academy with 285 in 162 innings. Her junior year she struck out 240 in 142 innings, averaging 12 strikeouts per game and recording a .88 earned run average.
“On the field Mandy is going to be fun to watch,” Ryman said. “She is all business, but she has humility about her. She is very quick to give credit to her teammates. But she is a competitor. Everyone is going to see that in her demeanor.”
“Mandy has the ability to throw in a major conference and she picked us,” Ryman said. “I know how strongly she feels that she is supposed to be here and to be here for a reason. We feel the same way.”
Pealor, Higgins and Giere are the catchers. Ryman admits it is rare for a team to sign three catchers in one class, but she likes the versatility of all three.
“All three of them can play the corners,” Ryman said. “Typically we have not carried more than two main catchers at one time. All three can catch and we will still have Abby Fenichel as a veteran in 2016. It will be the deepest we have been at catcher.
“It is a demanding position and one that does not often get as much credit as deserved. It takes much more than physical ability and we feel that all three of these girls possess that potential.”
All three have the ability to compete for playing time behind the plate.
“With all three the blocking is there, the framing is there and their arms are good,” Ryman said. “At this level every pitcher you catch is different so they all have to get on the same page with our pitchers and Coach (Megan) Smith as quickly as possible.
“They have already started meshing well together. They all have different strengths and weaknesses and they are going to help make each other better. The versatility is strong for all of them, so the opportunity to get on the field early is great.”
Pealor, 5-8, is a left-handed power hitter from Northgate High School who can catch and also play first and third. She has a .454 career high school batting average with 22 home runs and 98 runs batted in. She has been an All-State performer and is a two-time All-Region and All-District team member.
“Jenna is one of those hitters who is going to be able to step in right away and make an impact in the middle of our lineup,” Ryman said. “The fact she is a lefty adds that much more of a dynamic.
“It is going to be exciting to watch her continue to develop. Jenna is such a great fit for Lipscomb and our program. She has a way of bringing out the best in others. She does some nice things behind the plate and works well with her pitchers, but she can play the corners too. We will want to find a way to get her bat in the lineup any way we can.”
Higgins, 5-8, is from Riverdale High School. She can also play first and third, but may even be more versatile.
She has twice been named the Daily News Journal’s Most Valuable Position Player in softball and was chosen as the newspaper’s 2013 Player of the Year. She is also the 2013 Most Valuable Player for her team.
“Sarah has enough athletic ability and moves well enough where I could see her playing some outfield too,” Ryman said. “She is strong behind the plate, and also aggressive at third base. But she moves well, and ultimately could compete in the outfield too. Offensively, she can hit for a high average but she is also a long ball threat.
“She brings more quickness behind the plate and has a spunk about her which our pitchers are going to like. She communicates well and has a fighter mentality. She has good arm strength. She is a strong all-around athlete and is ready to learn.”
In addition to catching, Giere, 5-6, also has a lot of experience on the corners. She has been All-State second team and All-State honorable mention playing for New Life Academy. As a junior she batted .521 with an .826 slugging percentage. Ryman will be watching her development closely this spring and summer.
“Malorie is going to have an opportunity next summer to play with some of our other players with the Georgia Force,” Ryman said. “That is really going to help her elevate her game.
“She has an infectious personality. She is very talkative and does a great job when she is catching of talking with her pitcher and letting herknow what she is seeing. She is going to be a vocal presence right away. Malorie wants to learn and is a true blue-collar player. She is the perfect fit for Lipscomb and our program.”
Aller and Brewer bring speed and athletic ability to the outfield. Both will be immediate stolen base threats and could bring an added punch to the top of the lineup with the return of Brittany Elmore.
“Destinee is going to be that player that people see run one time and just say, `wow’,” Ryman said. “She is a speedster. She has the ability right away to be in our lineup with her speed alone.”
Ryman is interested to watch Brewer continue to refine her skills on the high school level. She expects Brewer, 5-6, to continue to grow her expertise in all areas. She plays for Wetumpka High School where she has been All-State honorable mention and the team leader in batting average (.395) and hits with 62 last season.
“The biggest thing we are excited about is polishing her skills,” Ryman said. “She is more of a slapper at the plate. She has made a big jump over the last year and that makes us more excited about the jump she could make here.”
“She has a nice arm. She is going to be an immediate threat right away with her speed and the ability to put pressure on the defense. She has great range in the outfield and with her arm strength and athleticism, could play left, center, or right. We can’t wait to get her here to start working.”
Aller, 5-8, is a natural lefty. She throws left. She swings away and slaps left. She was an All-State selection in 2014 playing for Holland Springfield High School. She is serving as team captain this season.
“Kiley is actually starting to swing away a little bit more,” Ryman said. “By the time she gets here she will have the ability to do both and still have room to grow in those areas.”
Ryman expects Aller to quickly become a leader on the team. She has the ability to play any three of the outfield positions.
“Kiley is a natural leader in the outfield,” Ryman said. “She is used to playing center field and is not afraid to lay out. She gets great jumps and tracks the ball well. She is going to be that outfield general as her career continues.”
Green, 5-4, is expected to play shortstop but she could also see some time in the outfield.
“We are looking at her coming in and playing a lot at shortstop right away,” Ryman said. “She is small, but brings a lot of natural athleticism. She has a nice arm.”
She has been the team most valuable player and the team captain at McEachern High School for the past two years.
“Offensively, she is a right-hander whose swing is continuing to grow and mature,” Ryman said. “She has surprising pop in her swing, but more often than not she is going to be a gap-to-gap hitter. She also adds a lot of speed from the right side.
“Khayla is more of a doer than a talker. She won’t be the loudest on the field, but she will be a play maker.”