Kellie Sirus insists that she does not see herself as a home run hitter.
Yet her most recent blast traveled so far that some contend they never saw it come down. The two-run shot in the championship game of the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament not only sent the Bisons on their way to the title, it further cemented the reputation of the senior first baseman as one of the most prolific power hitters in the history of both the university and the conference.
“Stetson’s scoreboard had been hit by lightning so their scoreboard had been taken down,” Lipscomb coach Kristen Ryman said. “It’s a pretty big scoreboard, a pretty big piece of metal out there. She hit it over the poles, almost over the flagpole out in center field. It was definitely a long shot.
“We’ve seen her hit some of those throughout her career. Some of her balls just carry. It’s almost like it’s still going up when it goes out of the park.”
Sirus had one home run in each game of the conference tournament – five in all. That was one fewer than all the other teams had combined, and one more than the rest of the Lady Bisons’ roster.
She was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player as Lipscomb won its first title and earned its first appearance in the NCAA Division I Softball Championship. Her five home runs raised her season total to 17 (the most in the conference) and gave her 45 for her career.
The Lady Bisons begin play at the NCAA Tournament XX p.m. Friday against Alabama-Birmingham in a regional hosted by the No. 1 overall seed, the University of Alabama.
“I really didn’t consider myself when I was growing up a home run hitter, and I still don’t consider myself a home run hitter, although I have hit quite a few this season and through my career,” she said. “ … I think my swing has been – mechanically – pretty sound through all my years growing up. I just try to swing hard every time, and I really try to focus on getting through the ball.”
Sirus honed her swing and refined her approach at home in Sarasota, Fla. under the watchful eye of her father, Mike, who was her coach throughout her rec ball and travel careers. The addition of strength training and simple maturation during the past four years at Lipscomb has added to her pop at the plate.
“Kellie is one of the most mechanically sound hitters that I have ever coached,” Ryman said. “She’s just very, very strong mechanically ever since she’s been here and I think she hasn’t really deviated much from that.
“Kellie is definitely one who has stood out in our conference and has stood out on our team as that consistent power hitter.”
Now she has the opportunity to see how she measures up against some of the best competition in the country.
“Personally, I don’t think I’m very intimidating at the plate,” she said. “I’m not very, very big compared to other players. I definitely like taking teams by surprise. I don’t want them to think of me as a big threat because then when I come up they’re not as worried about it. Then I can surprise them.
“I always had power, but home runs didn’t come as easily as they have these last four years. They’d come every now and then, I guess moreso than for my friends, but I never really considered myself a home-run hitter.”
At this point, she’s probably the only one who doesn’t.
Sophomore pitcher Whitney Kiihnl was named to the Louisville Slugger/National
Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division I Southeast Region first team on Thursday.
Kiihnl was a second-team all-region selection in 2009.
She won 31 games and threw five no-hitters this season. Her 0.73 ERA and average of 2.44 hits allowed per seven innings led the nation. She also was among the top 20 in shutouts (12) and strikeouts (314).