Baseball headed to Vanderbilt for Regional play
Monday, May 25, 2015
By Kirk Downs
Baseball headed to Vanderbilt for Regional play

Nashville, Tenn. – For just the second time in program history the Lipscomb baseball team is headed to the NCAA Baseball Tournament with play set to begin on Friday as the No. 4 seed.

A plus for the Bisons is they will not have to leave the city as the selection committee sent the Purple and Gold to the Nashville Regional hosted by reigning national champion Vanderbilt.

"This is somethng we have been working towards all season long, to see our name called on the screen for postseason play," Lipscomb skipper Jeff Forehand said. "It has been such a big day for our team to be able to see that together. 

"Vanderbilt is such a great team and it will be a unique expereience kicking off the tournament on their home field right here in Nashville."

Lipscomb will put its nation-leading 15-game road win streak on the line Friday night at 7 p.m. when it will face off with Vanderbilt in a matchup that will be aired on ESPN3. Dave Neal and Chris Burke will have the call.

The Bisons and Commodores have already squared off once this season back on April 7 when freshman hurler Brady Puckett delivered a 7.1 inning, one-run performance on the mound and redshirt junior Josh Lee knocked in all three runs against his former team to give Lipscomb a 3-1 road victory. 

"Playing on the road is hard anytime, but for whatever reason, the ball has bounced our way and we have had success away from home," Forehand said. "Even though this game is on the road, it is still in our home town so maybe that is something that is good for us because of what we have been able to accomplish this season."

Also joining the cross-town foes will be No. 2 Radford squaring off against No. 3 Indiana to open the double-elimination competition at 2 p.m. Friday.

The Bisons enter the weekend at 39-18 overall after winning its way through the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship with an unblemished 4-0 mark to earn the league’s automatic bid.

The postseason berth is the first in seven years when Lipscomb also won the A-Sun tournament on its way to the Athens Regional, hosted by Georgia.

Lipscomb is in the midst of its best season since joining the Division I ranks, racking up a school-record for wins in  a season and placing a program best eight players on all-conference teams, including senior Grant Massey earning a first-team nod and being named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.

The sure-handed shortstop started all 57 games this season and leads the team with a .351 average at the dish. He has a team-high 78 hits and 18 stolen bases while recording 12 doubles, 44 RBI and 37 runs.

Massey backed up his all-conference billing in the field as well, making just five errors in 273 total chances.

The Bisons have four pitchers with at least five wins and a sub-3.00 ERA. Senior knuckleballer Ian Martinez-McGraw leads a staff that posted a 3.66 ERA this season in 509.0 innings pitched.

Martinez-McGraw is tied for the national lead with 16 starts on the year. The first-team All-Asun selection is 7-3 overall with a 2.50 ERA in 97.1 frames.

Vanderbilt is hosting a regional for the fourth time in the last five seasons. It enters the weekend ranked in the top 10 nationally with a 42-19 overall record and advanced to the Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship as the winners of the East division before falling to Florida Sunday night.

The No. 1 Commodores are paced offensively by Dansby Swanson, a potential number one overall pick in next month’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. The All-SEC shortstop is batting .350 at the dish with 13 home runs and a team-high 58 runs driven in. He has also drawn 38 walks to post a .438 on-base percentage.

On the mound it does not get much better anywhere in the nation than SEC Pitcher of the Year Carson Fulmer. The righty sports an 11-2 record with a 1.97 ERA in 100.2 innings pitched. He has amassed 136 punch outs to just 38 walks.

The Radford Highlanders (43-14), out of the Big South Conferene, enter the weekend ranked 23rd in the country after winning the leauge's regular season and tournament titles with a 20-4 record against conference foes.

Radford is led by Josh Gardiner’s league-leading .368 batting clip. In 68 hits, the senior has 18 doubles, three home runs and 47 runs scored. He leads the team with 18 stolen bases.

Michael Boyle leads a pitching staff that sports a 3.71 team ERA. The junior lefty is 10-2 with a 2.27 ERA. In 99.1 innings pitched, Boyle has 85 strike outs and 35 walks while holding opponents to a .219 batting average against.

Just two years removed from reaching the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, the Indiana Hoosiers earned its first-ever at-large bid after finishing the season 34-22. The selection marks the third consecutive year the Hoosiers have made the NCAA Championship.

Indiana is led by All-Big 10 designated hitter Scott Donley at the plate, who rakes a team-best .325. He has 69 hits with 10 doubles, 37 RBI and 33 runs scored.

Five pitchers have picked four wins apience to lead the staff. Ryan Halstead has been steady for the Hoosiers out of the pen with 10 saves in a team-high 28 appearances. He is 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 40.0 frames tossed.