LipscombSports.com
Bisons ready to get down to business against Georgia

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May 28, 2008

GALLERY

It has been a fun couple of days for the Lipscomb Bisons baseball team.

Rallies, cheers, pats on the backs and unprecedented media attention have filled their time along with a couple of practice sessions. Wednesday afternoon there was one last ceremony to send the Bisons off to Athens, Ga., for the NCAA Regional. There were introductions and speeches and ice cream as approximately 100 people attended.

But when the Bisons boarded their buses the fun was over. Thursday afternoon the Bisons will practice at Foley Field on the University of Georgia campus.

Friday at 2 p.m. CDT the Bisons will play host Georgia, the No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the No. 1 seed in the regional. Georgia Tech and Louisville play in the second game at 6. The double-elimination tournament continues through Sunday.

The games will be televised on CSS.

The Bisons, the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Champion, have been pointing to this weekend since they first started workouts in the fall.

"I could just see how they handled themselves once we started practice," said Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand. "I tried to treat them like an older team and give then a little bit of rope and see which way they were going to take it.

"All year long they were resilient. They pressed each other and challenged each other to be better. It is amazing how this team came together, but it came together because we have so much senior leadership."

Forehand points to players like shortstop Jorge Gutierrez, right fielder Shane Simpkins, left fielder Blake Bratcher and second baseman Ben Williams as examples of the leadership of the team.

"Ben came in under the old coaching staff," Forehand said. "He has been a leader mentally and emotionally and on the field."

Forehand's biggest challenge in his first two years was to bridge the gap between the players who were recruited before he arrived and the one's he added.

"We quit talking about it being old and new," Forehand said. "This is our team. This is team of the moment.

"We talked about what we need to do to be a good team. The players started believing at the beginning of last year. We had five seniors that left after last year that are a big part of this as well. It has been a building process."

The biggest challenge was the turn around the mental approach of the team.

"We had to get out of that phase that we are Lipscomb and we aren't going to be able to x or y," Forehand said. "Then we started to finally believe we could do x and y and we put some things together."

When the Bisons practice at Foley Field for the first time, Forehand doesn't plan to measure the bases or the distance between the pitcher's mound and home plate. He doesn't think he has to worry about how his team is going to perform on a bigger stage.

"I don't think we are going to be overwhelmed," Forehand said. "They have some confidence.

"They also respect the team we are playing. They understand that we are playing a very, very good team. Some of our preparation has been playing some of these other schools like LSU, Alabama, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Auburn so we are not in awe of the facility or the name across the jersey."

Forehand stresses that no matter who the opponent might be there are constants to the game that have to be followed.

"We have play a solid game mentally and a solid game physically," Forehand said. "I think they are prepared for it."

Foley Field seats 3,200 fans and an additional 300 seats are expected to be added. Forehand has warned his team that the conditions might be less than welcoming.

"I have tried to tell them that we are going to go into an environment where 3,000 fans are going be pulling against us," Forehand said. "I think they understand that.

"They are excited we are going to have 200 or so people there. They will know they have a following. They will be prepared for it."