NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lipscomb softball coach Kristin Ryman is busy getting ready for the start of the 2016 season, but can’t help but also spend some time looking ahead to her five signees which will be on campus next fall.
Ryman is looking forward to placing all five additions - Peyton Ward, Chloe Yeager, Megan Gray, Hannah DeVault and Abby White – on the field as soon as possible for the 2016-2017 season.
“These girls are going to come and be able to compete right away and have the opportunity to play right away,” Ryman said. “Ultimately, this is another great class for us.”
Ward, a shortstop, is from Winfield, Missouri. In three years of varsity softball she batted .557, including a .541 average her senior year. In three seasons Ward has compiled a .950 slugging percentage with 10 home runs, 14 triples and 22 doubles.
“Offensively Peyton is one of those players who has started to see her power numbers go up the last couple of years,” Ryman said. “She is someone who was highly recruited with a lot of interest from different schools. She felt like this was the right environment for her. She is going to be on the field quite a bit early in her career.”
Ward was a first team All-Conference and All-District selection and a three-time All-Region pick. She also has lettered in basketball.
“For me, having been a shortstop, I am very excited about getting the chance to coach Peyton,” Ryman said. “She is so athletic. When you watch how she moves and walks and carries herself you can tell she is an athlete. She plays with energy and is a leader on the field.
“She has great size (5-foot-9) for a middle infielder. But she also has a ton of versatility about her. I see a lot of myself in her, especially as a defensive player. While we love her at shortstop, she also has the ability to play second base or center field.”
Yeager, from Birmingham, Alabama, is a pitcher and first baseman. In 2015 she batted .675 with five home runs, three triples and 10 doubles. She did not strike out.
“Chloe plays a good first base,” Ryman said. “Offensively, she could be a very big weapon for us. She has a ton of power. She really works hard on her hitting. Early in her career she might be better as a hitter than a pitcher but she has the ability to continue to grow in both areas.
“She has a very out-going personality. She goes to one of the top college prep schools in the country (Indian Springs School) in Birmingham. Academically, she is really strong. She is going to thrive in this environment and excel in a lot of areas.”
As a right-handed pitcher Yeager posted a 14-3 record in 2015 with a .25 earned run average and 127 strikeouts. She threw a pair of no-hitters and six shutouts.
“We are very excited about where Chloe is going to go from here,” Ryman said. “She has a lot of upside. She places the ball and moves it well. She has the ability to keep getting better and better.
“She is a smart pitcher, and she is eager to learn.”
Yeager has numerous most valuable player awards for both softball and volleyball.
Gray is a right-handed pitcher from Honaker, Virginia.
“Megan only pitches and she is very, very good,” Ryman said. “We are really excited about her upside. We have a few things we want to tweak with her but we feel like those things will only make her takeoff even more than she has.
“She has pretty good speed, but her movement is what really makes her a special pitcher. With the graduation of Kelly Young and Tanner Sanders this year, we knew it would be important to bring in some mature pitchers that can step in and help us right away. Megan is exactly that. She has an opportunity to throw a lot of innings right away, and I feel like she is going to grow tremendously working with Megan Smith, our pitching coach.”
Even though she has not thrown a pitch Gray already has earned the nickname “Silent Assassin”.
“Megan doesn’t say a whole lot, but she has those little one liners that will make the others laugh. She is that quiet player who just goes about her business. But she has a confidence about her that is going to make her successful.”
DeVault is a middle infielder from Corryton, Tennessee. She is a four-time All-State team member and a two-time district MVP. In 2015 she batted .542 with 18 home runs and 66 runs batted in.
“Hannah is probably geared more for second base on this level,” Ryman said. “With the graduation of Baylee Williams this year it will be a great time for Hannah to join our program. The one word I would use to describe her is power.
“Hannah is a beast. She can absolutely mash the ball and is arguably the best pure hitter in Tennessee. Like Baylee she is a small package (5-foot-2), but she has tremendous bat speed and power. Hannah is certainly going to provide a big punch to our lineup. We feel like she will step in and compete right away.”
White is an outfielder from San Antonio, Texas. She is a two-time team captain and a team offensive MVP. In 2015 White batted .485, second in the district, and led the city in triples with 10 and doubles with 11. She also led the district in stolen bases.
“Abby has the ability to play first base as well,” Ryman said. “She has played at a very high club level with the Texas Blaze. They have used her at first base some. She can certainly handle the position. But we really like her abilities and athleticism in the outfield.
“She is very athletic and very good defensively. She reads the ball well off of the bat. She has the ability to play any of the outfield positions. She is lefty thrower and has good arm strength. She hits and slaps from the left side. She has been working hard to be a dynamic hitter with multiple tools. She has the maturity to step in and play right away.”
Ryman thinks this class is a great mix of power, athleticism and speed, but most of all she likes their versatility.
“We think they can fill several roles for us both on the field and in the lineup, and we believe that versatility will make them extremely valuable right away,” Ryman said. “They have all played a very high level of travel ball and have been challenged on the field.
"Academically, they are sound. They are from great families, and we feel like they will be great fits for Lipscomb. This class has already meshed really well together and with our current team. They are going to be difference makers."