FORT MYERS, Fla. – The rewards just keep on coming for the Lipscomb softball team.
The ASUN announced its annual awards on Wednesday afternoon, and the Lady Bisons were the big winners, led by a pair of accolades for Hannah DeVault.
The junior second baseman was named the ASUN Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, while also unanimously being voted a member of the All-Conference First Team.
Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman also took home a top honor. She was named ASUN Coach of the Year for guiding the Lady Bisons to the regular season title and the top seed in the conference tournament.
“I'm really happy that Kristin has received this well-deserved recognition this year,” Lipscomb athletics director Philip Hutcheson said. “The team's consistency this year has reflected that of Coach Ryman, year in and year out. She certainly deserved the award this season, but I also hope it will cause others to recognize her long-term efforts that have led to 30-plus wins in nine out of the last 10 years.
“Along with their consistent performance, this season, the team has performed well when it has counted most and that's a reflection not only of their ability but also of the competitive attitude that has been instilled by Kristin and her staff.
“Finally, I'd like to congratulate our associate head coach, Megan Smith, and our assistant coach, J.J. Dillingham. Any time a head coach wins an honor, part of the reason they won it is because of the quality of the staff that she or he has put together. With Coach Smith and Coach Dillingham, we have a group who have all done a super job this year."
Ryman also credited Smith and Dillingham for the honor in addition to her team.
“I am not big on coach of the year awards because I think it is more of a staff of the year award,” Ryman said. “I don’t think our success falls solely on me. It falls on our entire staff and our team.
“There is not one decision I have made through the course of the year that has caused us to do what we have done. It has been a lot of decisions by our entire coaching staff and a lot of time and effort put in by our players. When you have a team with good players then good things will happen.”
For DeVault the defensive honor is a repeat of last year. This is the third time Ryman has been named coach of the year, having won the award in 2010 and 2008.
The dual honors by DeVault mark only the second time a Lipscomb player has accomplished the feat. Whitney Kiihnl was named both ASUN Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year in 2010.
“Hannah is the type of player I love to coach,” Ryman said. “She wants to be coached. She has very high standards for herself, but she is not the player looking at the stat sheet to see what her numbers are. She would prefer not to know.
“She finds a way to be productive. She is one of the most aggressive players I have ever coached.”
It marks the first time in ASUN history that one person earned both Player and Defensive Player of the Year.
DeVault has had a statistically dominant season. She leads the ASUN in RBI with 50, doubles with 20, and extra bases hits with 26. She is also second in home runs (nine), second in slugging percentage (.637), second in total bases (100), fifth in OBP (.439), fourth in hits (53), third in runs scored (37), third in walks (29), and eighth in batting average (.338).
“Hannah is one of the players who makes a play or gets a hit that causes everyone on the team to get fired up,” Ryman said. “She just wants to focus on playing.
In the field, she has recorded 103 putouts and made 67 assists with just five errors for a .971 fielding percentage as the key member of the Bisons defense.
“I love how much of a team player she is,” Ryman said. “She is the first person to jump in and help when needed. She has another year left which is exciting.”
Joining DeVault on the first team are right fielder Graysen Gladden and catcher Sarah Higgins, both seniors.
“Graysen has done so well in conference play and people took notice of it,” Ryman said. “She has trusted us as coaches to guide her.
“She is fearless and competitive at the top of the order. She is going to find a way to win. She picks up on a lot of things during a game. She is softball smart.”
Higgins selection is even more impressive considering how quickly she overcame major ACL surgery in the offseason to become the regular catcher two weeks into the season.
“What is neat is Sarah has been All-Conference as an infielder and a catcher,” Ryman said. “This was the first year any of our ASUN opponents had seen her catch. Her work ethic is second to none. She is a great person and a great teammate.
“She has picked up steam in conference play. She has come up big offensively in so many key moments. She has power and she can hit to all fields. She is not a hitter you want to face with a game-winning run on second or third.”
Second team selections from Lipscomb are pitcher Mandy Jordan and designated player Jordan Fortel, also both seniors. In addition, Fortel, with a 4.0 as an entrepreneurial marketing major, was named to the ASUN All-Academic Team.
“The business program at Lipscomb is very strong,” Ryman said. “Jordan is a high achiever in general. She has been such a key for us this season. Everyone in the conference knows that. She has been one of our best all season long. She is ready for a strong finish.
“Jordan is always taking extra cuts in the cage and asking for extra batting practice all the time. She is the same way in the classroom. She is not going to settle for a ‘B’ if she can work a little harder and get an ‘A’. I love that about her.”
Mandy Jordan was one of the top four pitchers in a conference filled with top pitchers.
“Liberty and FGCU have really strong staffs and could have each easily had two All-Conference pitchers,” Ryman said. “Megan Garst at North Alabama was one of the best all year.
“I am really proud Mandy is part of that group whether she was first or second team. It shows so much resiliency on her part to come back from surgery from an injury she had last year. She has been our ace and has been back to form as the season has progressed.”
Pitcher/utility player Katie Turner and left fielder Amy Vetula were named to the All-Freshman Team.
“Katie is so incredibly talented,” Ryman said. “I am so excited about her future. This is just the start.
“It is hard to overlook her as one of the key freshmen in this league. She is a dual threat. She will continue to be a two-way player for us the rest of her career here. She just brings so much to the table offensively and pitching-wise.”
Vetula’s natural position is shortstop, but she has made the transition to left field this season.
“Amy is a super-talented, super-athletic and a very savvy player,” Ryman said. “She can play defense. She has made some outstanding catches.
“She has played some outfield before but has never played it consistently. She has been in and out of the lineup which is not an easy role to be in. As we got closer to conference play she came to life and was a big-time spark in the bottom of our order. It really jumpstarted our offense.”
The team concept has been a centerpiece of the team all season and Ryman points to the fact individual awards are a direct reflection on the team.
“All of the players honored have had really good years,” Ryman said. “They are very deserving across the board. It speaks volumes for the year we had as a team.
“Any time you have quite a few players honored it reflects the years they have had. No one player can win a game by themselves. We are all reliant and dependent on each other.”