NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb softball team officially began its preparations for the 2018 season last week with the first official team practices of the spring.
The Lady Bisons enter their 13th year under the guidance of head coach Kristin Ryman where, in that time, she has directed Lipscomb to a 391-268-1 record.
“We were really excited about finally having our first team practices,” Ryman said. “With all of the snow and cold temperatures last week we had to stay inside most of the time, but we were able to get a good defensive workout in.
“It’s exciting that we are only a couple weeks away from the season.”
Lipscomb returns all but one starter from a relatively unexperienced squad that finished 36-20 last season while sporting a RPI ranking of 52.
Lipscomb, who was picked to finish fourth in the league standings by the ASUN head coaches, will be led offensively by its two seniors – Caitlin Plocheck and Abby Fenichel.
Plocheck, a first baseman and pitcher, is coming off a season that earned her first team All-ASUN honors after hitting .333 with a career high nine home runs and 17 doubles to go along with 32 RBI.
Fenichel started all 56 games behind the plate for Lipscomb, proving she is one of toughest players in the conference. Fenichel batted .287 with three home runs and 27 RBI, but behind 17 walks and 11 hit by pitches, her .387 on-base percentage was tops on the team.
Other top hitters returning to the fray is junior outfield speedster Destinee Brewer (.318), sophomore second baseman Hannah DeVault (.268) and junior third baseman Sarah Higgins (.236).
In the circle, it all starts with junior hurler Mandy Jordan, the ASUN’s preseason Co-Pitcher of the Year for 2018. The Camden, Alabama native was a second team All-ASUN member a season ago after finishing second in the league with a 23-11 ledger and a 1.46 ERA.
Jordan ranked 14th across Division I with 261 strikeouts, while also leading the conference in strikeouts per game (7.94), complete games (29) and innings pitched (230.0).
Behind Jordan, the Lady Bisons bring back only one win from 2017 after graduating 12-game winner McCarley Thomas.
Sophomore Megan Gray and junior transfer Jordan Fortel will be relied upon heavily to round out the expected rotation.
In her first season Gray only logged 3.1 innings, but Ryman has been impressed with her improvements into year two.
Fortel transferred to Lipscomb after spending a year at UT-Chattanooga in 2016 and Walters State Community College in 2017. The two-way player won the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association (TCCAA) Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and was also named first team All-TCCAA as a pitcher last season.
She finished 17-3 with a 1.30 ERA, six shutouts and 140 strikeouts in 129.2 innings. Perhaps her most impressive stats is that she only allowed eight walks all season.
A left-handed hitter, Fortel also hit .543 at the dish, scored 65 runs, hit 15 home runs and drove in 57 runs, cementing her as a true dual threat for Lipscomb in 2018.
The Lady Bisons open the season February 9 against Penn State at 4 p.m. in the first of five games at the Sand Dollar Classic in Gulf Shores, Alabama.