NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The warm weather of the last few days gives a hint of spring days ahead and the Lipscomb softball team is taking advantage of every moment of warmth in outdoor workouts.
As Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman has said many times this is a team filled with players with high levels of natural talent. But it takes more than talent. It takes hard work and these players are showing they have no problems with doing whatever is required of them in practice to improve.
“This group has an intenseness about it,” Ryman said. “The mentality of this team right now is we have a job to do. This is not a standard that has been set for them by someone else. It is something they want to do.
“As a coach, that is encouraging to see. They ask questions in practice. They ask for more reps. They help teach each other. You know you are in a good spot when things like this are happening. They aren’t taking winning for granted.”
This team has a series of expectations. First, they want to fulfill the preseason prediction that Lipscomb will win the Atlantic Sun regular season title. Second, they want to win the A-Sun Tournament and earn the program’s third berth in the NCAA Tournament under Ryman.
“We feel very excited about the talent we have this year,” Ryman said. “We have so many new faces in the mix. We have changed the look of our team from last year to this year.
“I think it is just a matter of taking it from sheer talent and potential to the level of getting it done. We are hungry for opening day but there is still a lot of work to be done.”
At least four freshmen are in the mix for starting spots with Khayla Green working at shortstop, Sarah Higgins at third and Destinee Brewer playing in left field.
Newcomer Mandy Jordan will be one of three starting pitchers, joining senior All-Conference performers Kelly Young and Tanner Sanders.
“Mandy will certainly be in the mix from a pitching standpoint,” Ryman said. “She is going to start quite a few games for us this year. She has the ability to do it. We will determine how many innings she throws based on how things go during the season.
“We choose not to have a set rotation. We like to play a match-up game and we like to go with who is hot at the moment.”
Green and Riley Brown, a sophomore, are both getting practice time at short. Senior second baseman Baylee Williams has been working with the duo to make the transition as smooth as possible.
“Khayla played a lot of shortstop through the fall season,” Ryman said. “She is a very good athlete, She will make some mistakes from time-to-time like all freshmen will. She is a very capable player at a tough position to come in and play as a freshman.
“Sarah can catch or play third. We think she can do good things at both positions, but Abby Fenichel is going to do most of the catching right now due to her experience. Sarah is a really solid at third. She is learning more about the game every day. She also can provide a lot of power at the plate.”
Williams, who made only two errors at second base last season, is trying to pass on her consistency of play to Green and Brown.
“We have asked a lot of Baylee in terms of helping both Khayla and Riley,” Ryman said. “She has taken them under her wing as far as talking to them and helping them understand what we need out of them from one play to the next.
“We have seen a lot of growth in Khayla and Riley. I think a lot of that is because Baylee is talking to them and doing her part.”
In the outfield senior center fielder Brittany Elmore, an All-Conference player, is working with Brewer and Kasey Gibson, a junior who is in the mix to play right field. Gibson has seen limited action in her first two years, but could be part of a speedy outfield trio that will also be able to create chaos as baserunners.
“Destinee started for us a lot in the fall and she is definitely in the mix in the outfield,” Ryman said. “She has a lot of speed and covers a lot of ground in the outfield. But she has also done a really good job at the plate for us.”
Elmore anchors the outfield and provides both talent and knowledge of the game.
“We have asked Brittany to step up even more than she has in the past,” Ryman said. “We want her to continue to talk with the girls on either side of them. It is not necessarily coaching them, but helping them understand what is going on and what they should be expecting.
“It is a very vital role not just to do her job in center but to be that cornerstone out there. She needs to help direct traffic out there and help the other outfielders deal with the ebbs and flows they will experience during the season.”
The Lady Bisons open the season Feb. 12 at the Sand Dollar Classic in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Fans can get a preview of the team and enjoy a dinner provided by Humdingers Saturday night at 6 in McQuiddy Gym.
The cost is $25 per person. Children under 10 are admitted free.
To reserve a spot visit www.LipscombDiamondDinner.com. Only VISA and MasterCard are accepted as payment.