May 20, 2008
DELAND, Fla. _ Lipscomb baseball coach Jeff Forehand is hoping that the second time around is more satisfying than the Bisons first trip to the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
Wednesday morning at 10 CST the Bisons, the No. 1 in the tournament, face Campbell, the No. 6 seed, at Melching Field at Conrad Park. The tournament, celebrating its 30th anniversary, is being hosted by Stetson University. The double elimination tournament continues through Saturday.
Last season the Bisons lost 4-3 to top-seeded Stetson and then fell 4-1 to No.5 seed Gardner-Webb.
The Bisons traveled here by bus Monday. Tuesday they are scheduled for a practice session.
"I talked to the guys about this the other day," Forehand said. "Last year one of our main goals of the season was to be able to have an opportunity to play in the postseason. We were able to clinch a spot the last weekend. That was such a grind the last month of the season. It was so emotional. It took a toll on us as we prepared for the tournament."
This time around the Bisons were confident they would be one of the top six teams. But they didn't earn the No.1 seed until last weekend.
"This year it was again a goal to get into the conference tournament, but it wasn't what we focused on," Forehand said. "We had some other goals in mind. We will go into the tournament this time not as emotionally drained as we did last year."
The Bisons have matched last season's victory total with 28, posting a 28-27 record during the regular season. They finished 19-14 in the Atlantic Sun Conference, the highest number of victories for the Bisons in league play.
Forehand discounts the role of being the No. 1 seed.
"I'm proud of our guys having a good regular season, but in our league all of the teams are just about the same from top to bottom," Forehand said. "Whether we have the No. 1 beside our name, or like last year when we were No.6, everybody goes into the tournament for the same reason and that is to win it. There isn't much significance in being either No. 1 or No. 6."
The Bisons will be meeting Campbell for the second time in a week. The Bisons lost 11-8 and 10-5 before pulling out a 6-1 win in the last game of the series at Buies Creek, N.C. behind a six-hit, complete game performance by Josh Smith.
Campbell finished the regular season with a 20-35 record overall, 13-20 in the A-Sun. "Campbell was like us last season," Forehand said. "They were fighting to get into the tournament when they played us. They produced. They got done what they had to get done to get in the tournament.
"I told their coach I thought they played really, really well, I was a little disappointed in how we played. They had more emotion going on. I hope it will be a different emotion and a different mindset for us when we play them this time. We have a great deal of respect for Campbell. Hopefully, that will show on Wednesday."
The Bisons are expected to send sophomore left-hander Rex Brothers, the A-Sun strikeout leader with 87, to the mound to face Campbell. Junior right-hander Brandon McClurg, a two-time A-Sun Pitcher of the Week this season, and senior left-hander Mike Dunn round out the starting rotation for the tournament.
The Bisons also have five players batting more than .300 for the season. Caleb Joseph leads the team with a .345 average followed by Allen Bolden (.324), Shane Simpkins (.312), Blake Bratcher (.305) and Jorge Gutierrez (.305).
"Pitching is always the equalizer in our game," Forehand said. "Good pitching always seems to slow down good hitting.
"If we can pitch at a level a little higher than we have pitched at all season long and if we can continue to score some runs that is the best combination I can hope for. Hopefully, we will get a good pitching performance out of Rex on Wednesday and put some runs up for him to get the tournament started the right way."
All games in the tournament will be available for viewing on A-Sun TV. Lipscomb fans can sign up for the service by going to lipscombsports.com and clicking on the icon.