|February 07, 2020||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||R||H||E|
|Win: GRAY (1-0)||7.0||11||2||2||4||4|
|Loss: Aikey (0-1)||4.1||3||3||1||1||8|
|February 07, 2020||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||R||H||E|
|Win: Johnson (1-0)||7.0||3||0||0||1||14|
|Loss: YAKUBOWSKI (0-1)||5.0||6||2||2||0||10|
|De Leon (TROY)||2||0||1||1||0||0|
|February 09, 2020||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||R||H||E|
|College of Charlesto||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Win: GRAY (2-0)||7.0||1||0||0||0||5|
|Loss: Sparkman (0-2)||7.0||3||1||1||0||6|
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lipscomb softball coach Kristin Ryman always strives to assemble a deep roster, but this season she may have outdone herself.
“One of the cool things this year is we probably have as much quality of depth as we have ever had,” Ryman said. “That is exciting for us to get them some experience early in their careers.
“The talent is still there. It is just a little more inexperienced.”
In addition to changes in the faces on the roster, Ryman expects her team will have a different playing style.
“This team may not look the same on paper statistically as some of the teams we have had in the past few years,” Ryman said. “The personnel in this group is just a little bit different.”
Ryman expects the team to be more speed-oriented than last year, but stresses there is still power in the batting order.
“We have a lot of high-quality athletes that run well, who are going to put the ball in play and make the defense have to work,” Ryman said. “I love that style of play. I love putting pressure on the defense. I love the idea a slapper, a speedy kid, can barely tap the ball and turn it into a base hit.”
One constant will be the grit and perseverance that have become hallmarks of the Lipscomb softball program under Ryman.
“We are still going to be known as the team that is not giving up,” Ryman said. “We are always going to be in a game. We are going to be fighting until the last out. We are going to be that gritty type of team.”
Opening at Troy
Western Kentucky | Feb. 7, 10 a.m. | Live Stats
Charleston | Feb. 8, 7 p.m. | Live Stats
Charleston | Feb. 9, 12:30 p.m. | Live Stats
Ryman and her staff have been faced with replacing top pitcher Mandy Jordan, infielders Jenna Pealor and Khayla Green, the power of Jordan Fortel and Sarah Higgins at the plate, outfielders Destinee Brewer and Graysen Gladden and pitcher Chloe Rogers.
“That senior class will go down in the record books as one of our best classes ever,” Ryman said.
Small pitching staff
One place where the depth is not the same as last year is pitching. There was six pitchers last season and four this year.
Megan Gray moves into the No.1 spot in the rotation with Katie Turner at No. 2. Chloe Yeager is back but may not be ready for this weekend.
“Megan is taking the role as No. 1,” Ryman said. “We want her to go out and be the best version of herself for the team. Last year she started becoming the pitcher we thought she could be.”
Gray threw a no-hitter during the regular season and also shut out Liberty in the conference tournament, one of the most clutch performances of an ASUN Tournament filled with clutch plays for the Lady Bisons.
“She dominated most hitters in fall game,” Ryman said. “She was getting a lot of swings and misses. I feel really good about where she is.
“She is poised and excited to be in a bigger role. She is a very level-headed pitcher. She doesn’t show tons of emotion. It bodes well for her.”
Katie Turner is coming off a strong freshman season. She is a threat on both the mound and at the plate.
“Katie understands what she has always done is not going to get you there,” Ryman said. “That is a hard thing for a player to be willing to make those changes. She is our hardest thrower. I was really proud of her pitching at the end of the fall.”
Freshman Emily Yakubowski is the first left-handed pitcher on the roster since Ashley Anderson graduated in 2014.
“Emily brings such a different look,” Ryman said. “During the fall Emily was working through some mechanical things. It was a typical freshman fall.
“She had moments of brilliance. I am excited to see her coming into her own.”
Yeager can be effective in either relief or as a starter.
“Hopefully, Chloe will be even more polished and more consistent for us,” Ryman said. “She brings a confidence in what she does. She owns it if she misses a pitch. You need that with a senior pitcher.”
Versatile, talented outfield
This weekend Amy Vetula will be in center field. Caitlin Turner is penciled in for right field. Freshman Presley Leebrick is going to be the starter in left field.
“Amy is just so athletic,” Ryman said. “She is a play maker. She has the arm to play out there. She has great instincts. She plays the angles. She has the whole package.”
Abby Davis is also working in center field. Jessie Brown has spent time in center but can play any of the outfield positions.
“Caitlin Turner came back wanting to take over in right field,” Ryman said. “She has a great arm. She covers the gaps well. She brings a veteran presence. She has continued to grow defensively.
“She is very solid all the way around. Offensively she is an exciting player can who hit one, two or three in the order. She is a dynamic hitter.”
Kyndall Crawford is working in right field as well.
Leebrick is expected to bring skills in both the outfield and at the plate.
“Presley is a very polished offensive player who can utilize every tool from the left side,” Ryman said. “She can bunt, she can slap, or she can chop it. She can power slap and can hit away with power.
“Defensively she is going to be a playmaker. She has the arm and the ability.”
Kelly Paulson has impressed with her play in left.
Ryman ranks the outfield as the deepest in terms of depth in a few seasons.
“The group of Vetula, Leebrick, Caitlin Turner and Davis will anchor us,” Ryman said. “But Paulson has shown the ability to cover ground and get great reads and jumps. Brown has a strong arm and finds ways to make plays in all three outfield positions.
“Crawford missed the entire fall recovering from an injury. She has been a standout at the plate this preseason. She is still working back into the outfield, but we love her upside.”
The leaders in the middle
The middle of the infield is set with seniors Peyton Ward at shortstop and Hannah DeVault, selected as both the preseason ASUN Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, have been starting since they were freshmen.
“I rely on Peyton and Hannah so much for leadership,” Ryman said. “It is a neat little duo there.
“They know each other so well. They know their strengths and weaknesses, They work so well together up the middle. As coaches they give us a lot of peace of mind knowing we can rely on those two. They bring that poise and experience which I think are going to be keys for us.”
Peyton and DeVault approach leadership with different styles.
“Peyton is more of a vocal leader,” Ryman said. “She is going to say what she thinks needs to be said. She is kind of a coach on the field. She has that presence about her. Being a shortstop is such a great role for her. That is something that is vital to play that position.
“Hannah isn’t going to speak up as much, but when she does, she says good things and important things. Hannah is just that gritty player who lets her actions and play do the talking.”
Paulson has spent time at second along with Elise Shewmaker.
“Elise is versatile and athletic,” Ryman said. “She has a solid swing. She was held back at times this fall with injuries, but she has been competing will in preseason.”
Different looks on the corners
Olivia Ward, Peyton’s sister, is a transfer from the University of Kentucky and is getting the early nod at third.
“I feel really good about Liv,” Ryman said. “She has grown so much already this fall. She is in a place where she is happy and doing well.
“She plays hard and plays quick. She understands the sense of urgency and how fast this game is played. She brings it every day in practice. She is very athletic. She has a really strong arm and can throw from a lot of different arm slots. She gets rid of the ball quickly.”
First base is the most competitive position in the infield with Jenna Endris emerging early.
“Jenna played a decent amount last year mostly as a defensive replacement late in games,” Ryman said. “Like last year, she is our only true first baseman.
“Defensively she just gets it. She understands where she needs to be. She pays attention. You have to have someone who is quick and reacts and can handle all the different throws from her infielders. She came in with the mindset she wanted first base to be her position every day.”
Also working at first are Katie Turner, Ashley Montoya, Alana Collins, Kaitlyn Woodside and Shewmaker. Woodside has also been playing some at third.
“Alana has been a spark this preseason as well,” Ryman said. “She has competed at every infield position except pitcher.
“She brings a drive and competitive factor to everything she does. Her standards are high both offensively and defensively. We can envision her competing in a lot of areas this spring.”
Ryman will also look forward to what Woodside brings to the table.
“Kaitlyn will definitely provide an offensive punch to our deep lineup,” Ryman said. “She could start or come off the bench.
“We feel confident in her approach at the plate and her ability to work the count. Her quality at bats this season were impressive and clutch.”
What’s the catch?
Kamrie Rich, who redshirted last season, will open the weekend at catcher.
“Kamrie is still growing and learning,” Ryman said. “We need her to jump in right away. We are counting on her both as a catcher and a hitter.
“She is one of those intellectual brains who analyzes and dissects things. She wants to figure everything out so she can be her best.”
Montoya and Collins are also getting work at catcher. Meghan Kline is seeing some time there too but is also proving to be a solid player at several infield positions.
“Meghan has also gotten some innings in the outfield and brings a strong versatility with her athleticism and understanding how to instinctively play a number of positions.”
The catching competition has been a positive for such a key position.
“It has been competitive back there,” Ryman said. “It will be a position that is kind of up for grabs. We are challenging them every day.”
Talented pieces to the puzzle
Ryman is enjoying the versatility of her players, especially the freshmen. She compares it to working a puzzle.
“We have been very determined as a coaching staff to identify the strengths of every player,” Ryman said. “We want to find a way for those who are not starting to be able to use their strengths.
“We have enough players with really good skills. Everybody brings something. That is a really cool feeling as a coach.”