The Bisons, the No. 2-seed, were originally scheduled to play No. 5-seeded Mercer in the opening game. But due to rainy weather the format of the tournament was changed Thursday. Mercer and No. 4-seeded Belmont played in the opening game. Belmont fought off a late rally by Mercer to win 6-5.
Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand had a late night meeting with his players to talk about the events of the day.
“You try not to let the players think that this is a big problem,” said Forehand who scouted ETSU one last time along with assistants Chris Collins, Lantz Wheeler and Brian Ryman. “And it's not really a big deal. There are times during the season when you expect to play on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but the Friday game gets rained out and you play a doubleheader on Saturday. You can't control the weather.”
In the nightcap ETSU upset Stetson, the No. 3-seed on its home turf at Melching Field at Conrad Park by a score of 4-2. Both Mercer and Stetson were eliminated from the tournament.
Jacksonville,the top seed, will play Belmont at 8:30 a.m. Friday. Both Jacksonville and Lipscomb earned first round byes under the new format.
Junior left-hander Rex Brothers, a First Team All-Conference performer, will start for the Bisons. ETSU will make a game-time decision on a starter.
The remaining four teams will play a double-elimination tournament the rest of the way, unless the weather once again becomes an issue. If four games are not completed by midnight Friday the tournament will switch to a single-elimination format.
The Bisons, 23-31, closed out the season against ETSU, winning two of three games in Johnson City. The Bisons won 6-5 and 16-7, but lost the final game of the series 14-7. The Bisons won seven of their last 10 regular season games.
ETSU, 24-22, is playing in the tournament for the first time since 2006. The last time a No. 6 seed has won the tournament was in 2003 when Jacksonville took the title.
“We have a pretty good read on ETSU,” said Forehand. “It was our last series so our players still have all of the info we prepared. “
While they may have been the last team to qualify for the tournament ETSU entered the tournament as the leader among the remaining four teams in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, home runs and total bases.
ETSU has won its last two games after losing seven in a row.
“ETSU is playing with a bunch of energy,” said Forehand. “Their enthusiasm is really running high.”