FT MYERS, Fla. – Missed scoring opportunities proved to be the story in the 2014 Atlantic Sun Conference Championship game on Sunday afternoon as Lipscomb baseball dropped a 7-1 decision to Kennesaw State at Swanson Stadium.
Despite the loss, the Bisons finish the season 33-28 tying the NCAA era school record for wins in a season and claiming the mark for the highest winning percentage.
With chances to take control of the game early in the day, the Bisons failed to manufacture much offense eventually leaving 12 men on base compared to just three by the Owls (37-21)
“That’s just how baseball goes sometimes,” said Lipscomb head coach Jeff Forehand. “At this point you just hate it because it’s the last game and we are playing pretty well. It’s just a hard thing.
“We had some opportunities. When you don’t take advantage of them and they do this is usually what happens. Kennesaw is just on a roll right now and they’re going to represent our conference well. I wish Coach Sansig and his team nothing but the best. They played a great game today and it hurts for us to lose but they played well and deserved to win.”
The Bisons opened the scoring first in the second inning manufacturing a run after a leadoff walk by junior designated hitter Tyson Ashcraft started the inning. A sacrifice bunt by freshman third baseman Hunter Hanks moved Ashcraft into scoring position for senior catcher Nick Rome and the veteran delivered his fifth RBI of the tournament to give Lipscomb a 1-0 lead.
The lead held just one inning as the Owls got a solo home run by right fielder Justin Motley, who took an 0-2 pitch over the fence despite it being down in the zone.
The Bisons would threaten to score in both the fifth and sixth innings getting two runners aboard in each inning but the Purple and Gold could not break the tie.
Those missed opportunities would loom large as the Owls would break the game open in the seventh. KSU catcher Max Pentecost opened the frame with a bunt single and the Owls followed with back-to-back singles to break the tie2-1 and later pushed across two more runs to take control of the game.
The Owls went on to add three in the eighth to put the game away and claim the A-Sun championship.
Lipscomb got a fantastic start out of junior southpaw Nick Andros, who aside from the solo home run in the third was in control until the seventh when things went awry. Andros went six and one-third innings giving up eight hits and four earned runs. He also fanned seven without issuing a free pass.
“Nick was great again,” said Forehand. “He just gave up a bunt single, a two-strike hit and the ball just bounced their way in that inning. It wasn’t anything that I think he did wrong. They just ran into some balls and hit them where we weren’t. He pitched great and has a bright future ahead of him.”
Kennesaw State’s James Connell picked up the win in relief with a dominating performance on the hill. Connell entered in the seventh inning and allowed just one hit and one walk while fanning eight Bisons in the seventh and eighth innings.
Hanks, Rome and Mike Korte each had a pair of hits on the afternoon to lead the Bisons.
Junior shortstop Grant Massey led the game off with a walk tying the Lipscomb single-season mark of 40 set by Ryan Mitchell in 2005. The Bisons also set the team record for most walks in a season with 272.
The team also set the mark for the lowest opponent batting average holding the opposition to a .214 mark.
Massey and fellow junior Ian Martinez-McGraw were named to the 2014 Atlantic Sun Conference All-Tournament team for their play in the event.
With the loss, the Bisons bid farewell to seniors Drew Adams, Jacob Knott, Conor Moynihan, Nick Rome Chad Shannon and Weston Wolfe.
“I didn’t understand while we started slow and I was so elated when we were playing well,” said Forehand in regard to the season as a whole. “And then when we fell off again, it’s hard to explain but it’s exciting to be around these guys every day for us coaches. They never quit, they never stopped trying to figure out what the problems were when we were going wrong. I’m just proud of them and they are fun team to coach and I’m proud to say that I’m their coach.”