May 24, 2008
DELAND, Fla. _ The Lipscomb Bisons are going somewhere they have never been before, but they are taking it all in stride.
After beating Gardner-Webb 8-2 Saturday afternoon here at Melching Field at Conrad Park in the 30th annual Atlantic Sun Championship, the Bisons find themselves in their first ever conference championship game. They will face Gardner-Webb for the championship Sunday at noon CDT. Gardner-Webb beat Belmont 6-3 Saturday afternoon to advance.
They have been unfazed by a round two loss to Belmont, changes in the schedule due to weather and the fact that each win in the tournament set a new school record.
Lipscomb catcher Caleb Joseph isn't all that certain how his team should feel at this point in the tournament.
"I don't know what it feels like yet," said Joseph. "I feel like we are still in the middle of the game with Gardner-Webb. They are a tough team. You have to be focused the whole game. But knowing that we are in the championship game and it is a one-game thing we like our chances."
Joseph is vying for tournament MVP honors along with center fielder Allen Bolden. Joseph admits there is a feeling of excitement on the team because they have not been to the championship game before.
"We came from never even having the tournament experience my freshman year to getting two games in last year," Joseph said. "This year we went for our first win. And then before we know it, we are in the championship game. It's a huge step for us."
Joseph credits Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand for his skills in motivating the Bisons to do their best in every game.
"Coach Forehand is an unbelievable motivator," Joseph said. "He gets us going. It is a talent for someone to motivate 20-something-year-old guys. When we all put it together we are a very good team."
Forehand, directing his team in only its second visit to the conference tournament, knows the importance of being focused on a goal.
"We have talked about poise and how we play," Forehand said. "We don't want to let the highs be too high or the lows be too low.
"We have tried to be even all the way through. Hopefully, we build on positive energy rather than letting negative energy bring us down."
The Bisons are batting .363 in the tournament with 57 hits in four games. They went into the Gardner-Webb game with a .380 average.
"Anytime you can hit close to .400 as a team it is a surprise," Forehand said. "I didn't have any idea what our average was. We are swinging the bats well. We are getting good at bats.
"They are being disciplined at the plate. The solid contact is turning into base hits."
The Bisons have seven home runs, the same amount the other five teams in the tournament have combined. They lead the tournament with 10 doubles. They also have drive in 39 runs.
The Bisons also lead the conference in pitching. In 36 innings the Bisons have given up 14 earned runs and 36 hits.
Forehand had praise for Josh Smith, who pitched seven innings and picked up the win over Gardner-Webb.
"Josh has pitched against big teams all season long," said Forehand. "He was prepared when he got the ball. He just did it for us."