NASHVILLE, Tenn. – They are scouted, studied and discussed before they sign to play, but no matter how much a coaching staff knows about a freshman nothing is certain until they actually play in a game.
For the Lipscomb softball team fall is a time to see if players have improved in the offseason and what adjustments need to made heading into the spring. But it is especially a time for coach Kristin Ryman and her staff to evaluate how valuable the new freshman class will be in the spring.
Ryman gets a second look at her players Wednesday night in a doubleheader at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium against Trevecca Nazarene. The first game starts at 5.
One of the most anticipated new arrivals this fall has been right-handed pitcher Mandy Jordan. She threw four innings of no-hit softball against Tennessee State in her first appearance in a Lipscomb uniform. She struck out eight.
“I thought Mandy did a really great job in her first outing,” Ryman said. “She has so many things to still kind of hone and improve on. She is up to that challenge.
“There is a tremendous upside with her as a pitcher. We think she is going to make a big impact this year but she is going to have a major impact the next four years.”
Destinee Brewer spent some time in the outfield and her speed has immediately drawn some comparisons to senior center fielder Brittany Elmore.
“Destinee has so many great tools that really just need to be polished,” Ryman said. “Offensively, as a slapper coming in, it is tough to excel in all phases – hitting away, soft slapping, hard slapping and bunting, She is not going to hit away very much right now but we saw her reach base using the other three tools. We see tremendous potential in her.
“She is one of those players who is going to make us go. Getting her on the base paths with Brittany Elmore and Kasey Gibson back-to-back-to-back against TSU was pretty deadly. The more experience she gains this fall the more confident she is going to get.”
Khayla Green was a defensive stalwart at shortstop. Ryman also expects Green to become a consistent hitter as well.
“Khayla had a good weekend defensively against TSU,” Ryman said. “She didn’t have as many hits as she would have liked.
“But she is a fast learner. She makes adjustments quickly. That is something that is very hard to teach.”
Ryman is impressed with Green’s overall athletic ability, something that is needed at shortstop.
“Khayla has tremendous, natural athletic ability with a lot of versatility,” Ryman said. “After graduating Bridgette Begle two years ago and Paige Neely last year, who both did a good job defensively for us, it is important to have somebody step in who can play that position. It is important for us to have someone stable there defensively.”
Sarah Higgins also is showing her versatility. She played both catcher and third base against TSU and could also get a look in the outfield.
“Sarah is the player everybody loves,” Ryman said. “She is always smiling. She loves to play.”
Higgins is quickly proving to be one of the more driven players on the team. She is not willing to settle for being average.
“Sarah wants to be perfect,” Ryman said. “If we challenge her to get better at something she is going to do extra work on her own to get better. She wants to be the best player she can be and she understands it is going to take work. We are starting to see she is going to be one of our hardest workers.
“She has tremendous potential as a power hitter. Sarah is going to be a power presence for us in the middle of the order. She wants to be great and we think she can definitely be great.’
Malorie Giere saw playing time at catcher, first base and in right field against TSU. Giere, like Higgins, also is a perfectionist in her approach to the game.
“She is the analyzer of the group,” Ryman said. “We joke with her about that, but it is a help for her as she works to improve.
“Anything we challenge her with she wants to get it right. She is such a detail-oriented person. She wants to know what is going on so she can correct it. She is soaking it all up.”