Softball takes diamond to open spring practice
Monday, January 12, 2015
By Mark McGee
Softball takes diamond to open spring practice

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The tarp is out at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium in an attempt to protect the infield from Monday’s rain. The Tuesday forecast calls for freezing drizzle in the morning and a high in the high 30s.

Yes, its softball time in Middle Tennessee and the Lipscomb Lady Bisons are preparing for their first group practice of the preseason despite the less than cooperative weather. The season opener, the 20th in program history, is 25 days away so time is of the essence.

“We work out in the cold a decent amount,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “We have to do that because we are going to be playing in some of those temperatures. Mentally, we have to be sure that we are ready for it and it won’t be a shock for us when we play in it.”

Some days it is too difficult to hit in extremely cold weather. Bats can also be damaged if the temperature dips below a certain level. In those situations the team will work on defense outside and then go inside McQuiddy for hitting drills.

“There will be some days when we try to stay out and hit, but a lot of hitting we can do inside,” Ryman said. “There will be days where we split our time inside and outside. We are thinking Tuesday is going to be one of those days.

“We have to be flexible. We can’t control the weather.”

The Lady Bisons will have 17 active players on the roster this spring. Junior utility player Madison Wray has decided not to continue her career but is remaining in school at Lipscomb. Sophomore pitcher Taylor Neuhart underwent surgery and will redshirt this season.

Hitting will be a primary emphasis for the Lady Bisons. In fall practices and individual workouts they worked on the mechanics of hitting. Now it is a matter of how they adjust to various game situations at the plate.

“The biggest transition they need to make from fall to spring is in hitting,” Ryman said. “We won’t be working on mechanics like we did in the fall. If there are some things that are drastically hindering someone from succeeding we will work on those things.

“Getting closer to game days more and more of the talk is about situational hitting, making those in box adjustments to what the pitcher is throwing, having a plan at the plate and being disciplined,” Ryman said. “That is a tough transition for a lot of players depending on what kind of learners they are. We have to be able to keep their mechanics intact so we can move forward.”

Ryman, entering her 10th season as head coach for the Lady Bisons, thinks this year’s edition could be one blessed with power at the plate.

“I think this team certainly has a power presence about it,” Ryman said. “How that is going to translate into extra base hits and home runs is something I don’t know yet. We didn’t hit a lot of home runs this fall but I can see this team hitting home runs. I am intrigued to see the numbers this spring.”

Players returning with power potential are Paige Neely, Gracey Aguirre and Brianne Welch. Newcomers Laura Dukes, Abby Fenichel. Riley Brown, Caitlin Plocheck and Baylee Williams also have the ability to go for the fences.

“Hitting is a big confidence thing,” Ryman said. “If we can get those hitters rolling I think they can take off from a power perspective.”

Ryman predicts this team could be one of her best from batters one through nine in terms of batting averages.

“I certainly don’t think we are going to live or die by the home run,” Ryman said. “I think we are going to have more consistency with our hitters this year.

“I feel like this year top to bottom we have hitters that are going to hit for a higher average. We are really excited with the potential.”