Ryman will test team early as softball season opens
Thursday, February 11, 2016
By Mark McGee
Ryman will test team early as softball season opens

GULF SHORES, Ala. – The Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball team is opening the season with a lineup featuring a blend of old and new and in-between.

Friday afternoon at 3 the Lady Bisons will face Samford. At 6 they will take on South Alabama, ranked No. 25 in preseason polls, in the first day of the Sand Dollar Classic at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex.

South Alabama opened the season at home Thursday night with a 4-0 win over UAB.

“It will be a tough first day,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “Samford is an aggressive team. They have some power. They can put together runs. They have a talented team.

“South Alabama graduated some key players, but they return some key pitching. They are very athletic.”

Saturday Lipscomb faces Florida A&M for the first time in program history at 3 p.m. They close out the night at 6 against Louisiana Tech.

Sunday at noon they close out the tournament with Southern Mississippi.

“We want to challenge our young group,” Ryman said. “This is what we want.”

Ryman isn’t saying her plans are set in concrete, but on the eve of the first game of the regular season she plans to start three freshmen in the field, including the entire left side of the infield.

Sarah Higgins is slated to open at third and Khayla Green will be at shortstop. Senior Baylee Williams is at second and sophomore Caitlin Plocheck will start at first.

In the outfield freshman Destinee Brewer is expected to be in left. Junior Kasey Gibson, who was a starter in only nine games last season, will be in right. Senior Brittany Elmore anchors the outfield in center.

Sophomore Abby Fenichel will get the nod to catch. Sophomore Riley Brown, who missed most of her freshman season due an injury, will be the designated player.

“We are looking for a good start,” Ryman said. “We are looking to come out and attack. Something we have been talking about is not coming out and being nervous.

“We don’t want to sit back and take a passive mentality. If we come out and attack we think good things are going to happen.”

The batting order was still being discussed at the hotel Thursday night. The only certainty is Elmore in the lead-off spot where she has been for the previous three seasons. The Lady Bisons can put together a lineup with speed at the top and bottom separated by a high level of power in the middle.

“It is just a matter of us going out and attacking pitches,” Ryman said. “We don’t want to be sitting on our heels and waiting for the pitches.”

The Lady Bisons have three starting pitchers in seniors Kelly Young and Tanner Sanders and freshman Mandy Jordan. All three are right-handers.

“All three of them being really strong pitchers with the ability to throw a lot of innings is a bonus for us right now,” Ryman said. “We have pitchers who are experienced and with Mandy we have a pitcher who definitely has the ability to perform at a high level.

“The three pitchers can be a huge weapon for us. We can use them in combinations. We can use them to pitch seven innings. We will have good arms ready behind whoever starts.”