NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Although the start of the 2018 baseball season is a little more than four months away, the Lipscomb Bisons and 12th-year skipper Jeff Forehand officially began preparations for a championship campaign last week when fall practice kicked off at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium.
The fall session will provide fans with plenty of opportunities over the next month to come out and get a glimpse of the new-look Bisons as the team will scrimmage every Wednesday and Friday around 2:30 p.m. at Dugan Field. Camp will culminate with the annual Purple & Gold World Series from November 1-3. All practices and scrimmages are open to the public.
“Any time you get a chance to start a new season and get back on the field as a full team, it’s always a fun time,” Forehand said. “We scrimmaged a little bit in the last few days, but that will ramp up in the coming weeks and we’ll have some good competition going. It’s a fun time of year for us.”
The Bisons come into the fall with plenty of questions and holes to fill, but none more so than on the mound.
Lipscomb, which finished a disappointing 28-28 last season, has to replace six of its top arms, including All-American starters Brady Puckett and Jeffrey Passantino. The Bisons also have to fill the immense hole left by Michael Gigliotti atop the order and in the outfield. All three players were selected in the 2017 MLB Draft.
“Everyone knows when you lose your top two pitchers and a leadoff guy that have been your staples over the last three years, there are going to be holes, big holes to fill,” Forehand said. “We are in the mold of trying to fill their spots, as well as building depth in other key areas.
“It is fun for us coaches because we get to see the improvements from the guys that are returning, and also see what the new recruits bring to the table. We have to come together as a unit and that is what this fall will be all about.”
The Purple and Gold’s roster includes 20 letterwinners, led by seniors - second baseman Lee Solomon, shortstop Blake Thomas, designated hitter Jake Perry and right-handed pitcher Dayton Tripp, as well as junior first baseman Cade Sorrells and All-ASUN third baseman Zeke Dodson.
Being introduced into the mix will also be 12 rookies, including eight freshmen and four junior college transfers. Forehand and his staff worked hard on solidifying the staff with eight of the 12 newcomers being pitchers - four righties and four southpaws.
“We are trying to figure out the identity of this team,” Forehand said. “We have a lot of talent, but the experience in some spots will not be as deep as it has been in the years past.
“Our plan over the next few weeks is to just get the guys into our system. Everyone has to be on the same plan across all three phases of the game – offense, defense and pitching – because we are ultimately getting ready for the spring season. I can’t wait to see where we are in a month.”
The Bisons have yet to release their 2018 schedule to the public, but fans can go ahead and circle Friday, February 16 as opening day at Dugan Field. The slate will be released in its entirety on LipscombSports.com in the coming weeks.