Whitney Kiihnl

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 18, 2008

Kiihnl’s pitching keeps Lady Tigers in contention for repeat

By Angie Ledbetter

The pitcher for the South Panola High School Lady Tigers fastpitch softball team is Whitney “Whit K” Kiihnl, a 17-year-old senior who wears No. 2 on her jersey.

Known for her pitching, Kiihnl was named “Miss Softball” for the state of Mississippi last year. She struck out 500 batters during the 2007 championship year.

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“Winning that meant a lot to me,” said Kiihnl. “My goal in high school was to get a ring and I had always wanted to be Miss Softball.  Last year was a good year for me.”

She started her career of playing softball at an early age of five and has continued.   Playing at other positions, Kiihnl went to the mound for the Tigers as an eighth grader.  Her pitching has improved over the five years and she is throwing consistently close to 70 miles-an hour pitches.

Even though she is the starting pitcher for the Lady Tigers, she said there are days when she wished that she wasn’t.

“I am glad that I am pitching but there are days that I don’t want to pitch,” she said. “I like it for one reason and that is because you know that you are in control of the game. You can walk everybody or not.”

Kiihnl, being with the program for a while, has seen many changes that have been made.

“Coach Hicks is a really good coach and she has really turned it around.  She is young but you really wouldn’t know it. Coach Hicks brought discipline to the program that we really didn’t have much of before, but now we are a disciplined team. She makes us work hard and we practice a lot. She always brings out the best in us.”

The Lady Tigers won the 5A State Championship game last year and ended the season with a 31-4 record.

“I honestly didn’t feel like we were going to win last year,” said Kiihnl. “I didn’t think that we would get past Madison Central. I was really surprised that we won. I didn’t expect last year to be the year that we would win it.”

According to Kiihnl, it takes team work to win a State Championship.

“The team had to come together and work as a team last year to win it.  We couldn’t just depend on one person. I think we can repeat it this year. We just have to come together as a team and believe in ourselves. I don’t think that we need to go down there thinking that we have it won either. If we do that, we start to play sloppy.”

Kiihnl said she leads by example.

“I’m not really good at standing up and giving instructions but I hope they look at me by the example I try to set. I try not to say anything negative to my teammates but sometimes it may come out.  I always want to keep it positive,” she said.

There is a close group of seniors on the team this year.

“Most of us have played ball together since we were probably five years old. We go out together and we are pretty close. I am going to miss all of them after I graduate.”

 Kiihnl thinks that Horn Lake is one of their toughest opponents this year so far.

“They’re one of the best teams in the State even though Tupelo beat us for one game. We just beat Horn Lake twice last Saturday. We won the first game 2-0 and 3-2 for the second game at Horn Lake. We were hitting and doing everything right.

Whether Whitney is at the mound or in the outfield, she has some strong support at the games. Her parents, Robbie and Jennifer Kiihnl cheer her on and you will see her grandparents, James and Joann Kiihnl right beside them cheering also.

She has one older brother, Luke, who comes to the games when he is home from college.

Robbie Kiihnl seemed to inspire Whitney the most about playing softball.

“He has always been there for me and he brings out the best in me. With him pushing me, he has always made me work harder. “

Whitney does not play a lot of other sports but she did do cross country this year in the fall just to try it out.

After graduation, Kiihnl will continue her softball career playing for the Lady Bisons at Lipscomb University in Nashville, where she received a full paid softball scholarship. Lipscomb is a nationally recognized Christian University with a proven academic program.