“Having a good time, playing like champions”
There are one million ways for me to start this recount of our 8-7 victory over North Florida to win the Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship. I’ve been sitting here on this bus ride back to Nashville writing, re-writing and deleting portions of an introduction to our monumental accomplishment for about 30 minutes now.
I could not be more proud to be a part of this team all year and to think we’re only getting started is the most satisfying part of it all. But as a guy who has seen the ups and downs of the season form the inside, it only feels right to point out that the Lipscomb Bisons baseball team of a month and a half ago would not have won this tournament.
You may think it has to do with our physical performance and of course that has an impact, but earlier this season we weren’t tough enough to win it all. We went through some rough stretches of being timid in the midst of challenging situations and at times it looked like we couldn't handle the pressure of coming back from an early deficit.
As recent as two weeks ago, we were even labeled as “incapable of winning when it matters” by an opponent. The thing is they were right for the most part. But then again, that was two weeks ago.
Down 3-0 in the 4th inning against one of the most high-powered offenses in college baseball with a second game to bank on if we didn’t get it done the first time. There are a lot of teams that would fold in that situation, but we aren’t one of them. We are the kind of team that comes back the next half inning to hang a 5-spot on the scoreboard just so you know we don’t go down without a fight.
That is what we’ve been searching for all year. The talent has always been there, but we’ve finally reached a point in our season where we refuse to falter in the face of adversity. We’re finally playing like a TOUGH team…OUR team.
We grounded in to three consecutive, inning-ending double plays to start the game, but we were all over their pitchers from the very beginning. In the fourth we finally found some holes in their defense, got some men on base, and well, as we like to say in the dugout, “when it rains, it pours.”
Massey, Johnny, Josh, and Tyson with one-out singles to get two runs across and re-spark our energy will get over-looked, but those hits are what started it all. Then Allan Hooker, the greatest pinch hitter in the history of college baseball, does the improbable and hits a 3-run homer to give us the lead.
Hook’s home-run is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever witnessed on a baseball field and it’s borderline funny to think about because it is Allan. At lunch today, Chucky, Sandy, Gigs and I asked Allan about the at-bat and all he could tell us was that the last thing he remembered from it all was the pitcher’s hand releasing the ball, because he completely blacked out for two innings after that. That response is absolutely hilarious if you know Allan.
In all seriousness though, it is extremely difficult to come off of the bench and pinch-hit in any situation and for Allan to give us the lead like that is as clutch as it gets.
After taking the lead we held on to it for the rest of the game. Nick came in after Marty and shut down UNF inning after inning and then a few two-out hits late in the game helped us extend the lead. And then for the second time this week J came in the game and closed it out. We made our fair share of mistakes down the stretch, but through it all we found a way to prevail.
A ground ball to Massey, the throw over to Adam and then Lipscomb Baseball dogpiles in celebration of an Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship for the second time in school history.
There is no feeling like celebrating a championship with your brothers. This is something no one will ever be able to take away from this team, this senior-class, or this coaching staff because the 2015 Bison Baseball team has forever cemented itself in history and it wouldn't be possible without every last person involved with the team this year.
Well, where do we go from here? Soon enough we will know where we will play our regional, what four teams we will compete against and we’ll be on our way to face another challenge. We’re still pumped about our win last night and we’re going to enjoy every second of it, but winning the conference tournament is “Accomplishment number one” on a long list of postseason goals.
We didn’t come into the season planning on winning the Atlantic Sun and stopping the train there, I’ll tell you that much. There is much more in store for this team and we believe we’re just as tough of a team to beat in a four-team tournament as anyone in the country.
No matter where we go, or who we play, we’re going to keep playing with confidence. If you think about it, there are 64 teams that are only three-consecutive wins away from winning another title…so why not us? Why not make more history? Why not write our names even further into the record books? We’ve been talking about it for so long now and finally we have our chance to do it.
The last week has been an unbelievable experience and what makes it even sweeter is that it is not over yet. The 2015 Lipscomb Bisons are the Atlantic Sun Tournament Champions AND we are officially on the road to Omaha!