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Sanders earns rookie honor
Monday, January 14, 2013
By Mark McGee
Sanders earns rookie honor

Tanner Sanders hasn’t thrown a pitch in a regulation softball game for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons, but she is already getting attention.

“College Sports Madness” has named Sanders, a right-handed pitcher, as Atlantic Sun Conference Preseason Freshman Player of the Year. Sanders, from Flintville, Tenn., was a standout player at Lincoln County High School.

Senior second baseman Kelsey Cartwright was named preseason First Team All-Conference.

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Ashley Anderson, junior infielder Haley Elliott and sophomore utility player Gracey Aguirre were named preseason Second Team All-Conference.

Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman was not shocked that Sanders is being noticed for her talents.

“Tanner is a hard-throwing pitcher,” Ryman said. “There are people that are aware she has a lot of potential.”

New Lady Bisons pitching coach Paige Cassady has been helping Sanders make the adjustment to college softball since the fall season.

“Tanner has been working to make her pitches more effective as opposed to just throwing hard,” Ryman said. “We think she is capable of winning a lot of games for us.”

Ryman thinks that the A-Sun has a top group of freshmen across the conference. Sanders is one of six freshmen playing for the Lady Bisons this season.

“The nature of our conference is to try to find freshmen that can come in and contribute and be big impact players,” Ryman said. “Tanner is certainly one of those.”

Cartwright is back for her second season with the Lady Bisons after transferring last year from Auburn. She led the team with a school-record 18 homeruns and runs batted in with 45. She led the conference in home runs and ranked second in the A-Sun in RBI's and was an A-Sun First Team All-Conference selection in 2012.

“Kelsey will be shooting to try to better everything she did last season,” Ryman said. “Kelsey looks at every day as a new challenge. She is a competitor.

“You don’t have to worry about her getting her work in on her own. She is always in the gym, in the batting cages and out on the field trying to get better.”

Cartwright is a consistent power hitter. Ryman expects her to once again be one of the major run producers on the team, but not just as a home run hitter.

“She will be back in the middle part of the order for us again this year,” Ryman said. “We want to try to put her in a position where she can drive in runs whether it is a home run, a double or a single.”

Anderson, a member of the A-Sun All-Freshman Team, finished 13-6 last season, including a 7-1 conference record. She had the third best win total in A-Sun games among all conference pitchers. Ryman expects Anderson to build on last season’s success.

“With a 6-foot-2 frame, and the fact that she is left-handed, I think she still has a lot of room to grow as a pitcher,” Ryman said. “She is working with a lot more purpose this year. She has found ways to challenge herself and she has accepted challenges that Paige has thrown at her to raise her level of pitching.

“Ashley is feisty. She is a competitor. She wants the ball.”

Elliott pounded 11 home runs last season and batted .298 overall, .321 in conference games. She could get playing time at catcher, first base or designated player this season. She saw limited action this fall due to recovery from an injury.

“From a defensive standpoint we are still trying to figure out where she is going to fit,” Ryman said. “She is fighting every day to regain ground. She is closing the gap and that is good to see.”

There is little doubt what Elliott is capable of at the plate.

“Haley is one of those who provides such a presence on offense,” Ryman said. “She is a power hitter that doesn’t have a tremendous number of strikeouts.

“You always want hitters in the middle of your order that can put the ball in play even when they are not always getting hits. She is going to battle counts and find ways to make things happen.”

Aguirre played in the outfield last season and could return to either left or right. She can also play third base.

“Everybody knew she was going to be one of our top nine hitters,” Ryman said. “You could tell right away that she had a good swing. She has a really good eye at the plate. She doesn’t strike out often.

“But defensively we asked her to come out of her comfort zone. She did not have any outfield experience coming in. It is not a move that she wanted to do, but she knew that from a team standpoint we needed that out of her. She is very steady and willing to take anything on out there.”

Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations for Athletics.