May 31, 2008
ATHENS, Ga. _ The Lipscomb Bisons are doing more than just winning games in the postseason.
They have been making history.
In the Atlantic Sun Tournament they played in the longest championship game in terms of innings, a 15-inning, 10-9 win over Gardner-Webb.
Friday night a Foley Field here on the campus of the University of Georgia, the Bisons beat the host Bulldogs 10-7 in the Athens Regional in the NCAA Tournament. It was the first time a Lipscomb team has won an NCAA Tournament game in any sport. It also ended a six-game losing streak for Atlantic Sun Tournament teams in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Bisons (33-28) advance to round two Friday night at 6 CDT against Georgia Tech (40-19), the No. 2 seed in the regional. Georgia, the No.1 seed plays Louisville, the No. 3 seed and an 8-5 loser to Georgia Tech at 2 p.m. CDT.
Ironically, the last time a No. 4 seed from the Atlantic Sun beat a No.1 seed in a regional was 2003 when Stetson beat host Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
This is 24th appearance by Georgia Tech in the NCAA Tournament. They have been to the College World Series three times with the last appearance in 2006,
Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand and his staff were burning the midnight oil Friday night preparing for the Yellow Jackets from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"They are obviously a powerful team putting up a lot of good numbers," Forehand said. "The power is there, but it is not only about home runs. They simply have the potential to drive in a lot of runs."
Right-hander Brandon McClurg, 6-5, 3.11 earned run average, is the probable starter for the Bisons. Georgia Tech is expected to send right-hander Eddie Burns, 7-4, 5.40 ERA, to the mound. Burns was selected in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft.
"I think they are an aggressive team," said Forehand. "If they go with their No. 2 starter he is going to give us a challenge."
The Bisons have also been an aggressive team at the plate in the postseason. After batting .298 for the regular season, seventh best in the Atlantic Sun, they led the conference tournament in hitting with a .358 average. They collected 10 hits in the win over Georgia.
"We had some rough games toward the end of the regular season where we weren't swinging the bat very well," Forehand said. "When we got to the conference tournament we talked about our goals. We had a lot of guys who came here for one year and they didn't want to let it all die in the conference tournament. We have been swinging the bats better of late."
The Bisons had little time to enjoy their win over Georgia, which came into the tournament as the No. 8 seed nationally. From the moment the Bisons won the Atlantic Sun Tournament Forehand was adamant that his team would not be happy simply to show up.
He downplayed the effect of the win on his players.
"I think it is a big win and there is the significance of winning our first NCAA Tournament game," Forehand said. "But we're trying to win this regional and we can't think about the Georgia game right now. In a few months we will really have a chance to realize what a big win that was."
Left-hander Rex Brothers, the starter and winner of the Georgia game, summed up the approach of the team.
"We are continuing this year on like we wanted to from the beginning," Brothers said. "We are just going to ride it out and keep playing hard and see how it turns out. We hope it will be Omaha and the World Series."
While red-and-black were the primary colors among the 2,255 fans at Foley Field Friday, there were approximately 200 loud and enthusiastic fans wearing purple-and-gold. More are expected to arrive for the Saturday and Sunday games.
That support has not been lost on the players.
"We know what this means to the Lipscomb family, to our school, to Nashville and to everyone who has something invested in Lipscomb," Bratcher said. "It is all a tribute to our coaching staff. Their work ethic and the way they go about things carries on to us."
White shoes theory: One of the questions from the media at the post-game press conference dealt with the Bisons white baseball shoes. It marked the first time the team had ever worn white shoes in a game, but it won't be the last.
"Our players wanted to wear white shoes all year long," Forehand said. "I told them I didn't like white shoes and we weren't going to do it.
"It started last year. I made a promise that if they made it to a regional they could wear white shoes. I guess we are going to keep wearing them."
Triple home runs: Catcher Caleb Joseph slammed a solo home run, his 17 of the season. Left fielder Blake Bratcher hit a two-run shot, his third of the year. First baseman Ryan Wilkins also added a two-run home run, his sixth. The three round-trippers tied the season-high for the team. The Bisons have hit three home runs in a game five times this season.