|May 30, 2015||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||R||H||E|
|Win: Ridgely (5-1)||5.0||5||2||2||0||2|
|Loss: PUCKETT (7-3)||5.0||7||4||4||2||4|
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb baseball team fell to No. 18 Radford, 5-2, in a NCAA Regional elimination game on Saturday afternoon at Hawkins Field.
Lipscomb (39-20) saw its season come to an end with the loss, wrapping up a year that saw the 2015 Bisons set the school’s NCAA record for wins and claim its second-ever Atlantic Sun Conference tournament title.
“The finality of the season, you're so high after the conference tournament and you play so well and get to the point where you come into a tournament so excited playing a top 10 team,” Lipscomb skipper Jeff Forehand said. “Talking in this moment is pretty tough. The reality of the whole thing is it's just really difficult to let this group go.
“This group has been a big part of me for a long time. We're talking about 11 seniors going out that really have made their mark and gotten Lipscomb baseball back to a spot where we're fighting for championships again, back in regionals. Wins and losses are secondary compared to the people I get to be around every day that I send out of here. They are such a special, special group.”
After a scoreless first inning, the Bisons’ bats got going in the bottom of the second when senior Jonathan Allison ripped his team-leading 18th double of the season to start off the frame.
Redshirt senior Josh Lee then turned on a breaking ball that hung in the zone and blasted it over the green monster in left field to give Lipscomb an early 2-0 lead and the momentum.
"It's definitely a full circle experience for me,” Josh Lee said. “I started my career out at Vanderbilt. I am just so blessed to have had this opportunity to come back and for this program to get to what we achieved this year. It definitely put Lipscomb on the map in college baseball.”
Lipscomb freshman hurler Brady Puckett looked to be in control early on, retiring seven of the first eight batters he faced, but the Highlanders finally got to the lanky right hander in the top of the third.
Shortstop Chris Coia hit a triple down the right field line before Shane Johnsonbaugh lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to plate the run and cut the Bisons’ lead to 2-1.
Puckett ran into some trouble in the fifth, giving up a leadoff triple and allowing the tying run to cross the dish in the next at bat on a sacrifice fly. He then loaded the bases with back-to-back free passes, but the rookie settled down and got a ground ball to senior Mike Korte at second for an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Just as it did on Friday night against Vanderbilt, the sixth inning proved to be the undoing for Lipscomb.
Puckett, who had been marvelous for most of the day, gave up back-to-back hits in the top of the sixth and then threw the ball away attempting to pick off Brad Keen at first and the lead runner came around to score, giving Radford its first lead of the regional.
After a wild pitch from Puckett moved Keen to third, Coach Forehand decided to go to senior Nick Andros out of the pen. Pitching in back-to-back games for the first time all season, the lefty got a fly ball to center, but it was deep enough for the runner to score from third. Radford then rounded out the scoring on the very next pitch when Trevor Riggs took Andros deep for his sixth home run of the season on the first pitch he saw.
"If you've followed our program this season, you know that Brady has pitched extremely well for us,” Josh Lee said. “He got the win here against Vandy earlier this season and in the conference tournament he shut down a very good offensive team in North Florida. Up on the mound, you know what you're going to get. We got a quality start out of him."
Puckett (7-3) finished the day giving up four runs on seven hits in five innings of work. He struck out four batters and walked two in 97 pitches.
From there the Bisons could never seem to come up with the timely hitting that had led them all season long. Radford’s starter Zack Ridgely tossed 5.0 innings to pick up the win and after giving up the second-inning home run to Josh Lee, he posted three straight scoreless innings before a 1:20 weather delay ended his day.
"Radford’s guy is one of those left-handers that was locating precisely,” Forehand said. “He was locating just off the plate and you take it for a ball and then you come back he was just precise -- off the plate, off the plate, and on the black.
“He was making clutch pitches. He was locating so well and maybe the one pitch he didn't locate well was the homer for Josh. In those first five innings, we had five hits and no walks. He's not striking us out, but making quality pitches that were causing us not to hit the ball square."
Five Bisons recorded a hit on the afternoon and combined for three extra-base hits. Senior shortstop Grant Massey’s triple in the sixth was the only hit for Lipscomb over the final five innings.
“You put all the work in through one year and it all ends in two days,” Massey said. “I don't think it's really hit me yet. But I'm sure when I'm sitting at home with my family, I'll be thinking about that. But I'm just proud of everybody and everything that we did this year. We turned it around a little bit and it's going be nice to see what all those guys can do in the future."