Friday, April 22, 2011
The Lipscomb Softball team clinched at least the No. 2 seed of the A-Sun Tournament next month with a pair of 1-0 wins over Mercer at Draper Diamond on Friday. With two conference games left, the Lady Bisons are a game out of first place.
Despite scoring just five runs in four conference games the last two days, the Lady Bisons (27-17, 14-4 A-Sun) posted four shutout wins with stellar defense and superb pitching to earn sweeps over Kennesaw State and Mercer.
The Lady Bisons pitching dominated the four games this week, tossing 30 innings without surrendering a single run. Whitney Kiihnl and Ali Watson went a combined 4-0 with 33 strikeouts and 7 walks in 30 scoreless innings during the four-game winning streak.
“We didn’t pitch the best at Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson last week, so it was nice to see both of our pitchers respond and pitch at the top of their game,” head coach Kristin Ryman said. “I can’t say enough about how Whitney and Ali competed this week against Kennesaw yesterday and Mercer today.”
Three of the four wins in the two-day span were 1-0 decisions while the other was 2-0 score.
The coaching staff says the team gets a lot out of winning close games.
“We hit the ball better today than we did yesterday, but the main thing is we are showing that we can win close games and that will be big come tournament time in a couple of weeks,” Ryman said.
“Good teams know how to win close games and how to win in many different ways and we did a good job of that against two quality teams (Kennesaw State and Mercer) this week.”
On Friday, Kiihnl scattered three hits and walked four while striking out eight in the complete-game 1-0 shutout in game one.
Watson followed up Kiihnl’s strong performance with a gem of her own in game two, tossing a team-high and career-high nine shutout innings to earn the tight 1-0 win in the nightcap.
Watson (7-3) allowed five hits with six strikeouts and no walks in the nine-inning complete-game gem.
“Ali continues to get better and better each time out and it’s great to see all of the hard work that she has put in pay-off,” Ryman said. “With the way she is pitching, I feel confident throwing her against any team in our conference right now.”
With two wins on Friday, Lipscomb is guaranteed at least the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye at the 2011 A-Sun Tournament, which will be held May 11-14 in Spartanburg, S.C.
The Lady Bisons have posted four straight seasons with at least 14 conference wins, including a school record 18 victories in 2010.
Game Two: Lipscomb 1, Mercer 0 (9 innings)
Caroline Mason’s two-out RBI-single in the bottom of the ninth drove in Mackenzie Tucker as the Lady Bisons edged Mercer, 1-0 in the nightcap to complete the double-header sweep.
Lipscomb outhit Mercer 10-5 in the nightcap but stranded a season-high 13 runners on base.
The Lady Bisons had chances to score in the first, fourth, seventh and eighth innings but failed to come up with a timely hit with runners in scoring position.
With the game scoreless, the Lady Bisons had a chance to take an early lead in the fourth after Haley Elliott led off the inning with a double to left. The key play in the inning came when pinch-runner Shelby Cunningham got tagged out on fielder’s choice at third base off a sharp ground ball off the bat of Vanessa Medina. Following the base running miscue, Rena Cothron doubled to left which would have given Lipscomb a 1-0 lead.
The Lady Bisons nearly won the game in the bottom of the eighth, when Elliott led-off the inning with a towering fly-ball to left-field. With the wind blowing out, Elliott and the rest of the LU faithful thought it was gone but Mercer’s Caitlin Peisel robbed the Lady Bisons and Elliott of a home run with a leaping catch against the outfield wall.
After Watson retired the Bears in order in the eighth and ninth innings, the Lady Bisons had the top of their order due up in the bottom of the ninth.
With one-out in the ninth, Tucker reached base on a fielding error by the shortstop and then advanced to second on a high throw. With the Tucker being the winning run and standing on second base, Mollie Mitchell hit a fly-ball to deep left for the second out, however Tucker was able to tag and advance to third.
After working the count and getting ahead 2-0, Mason laced a low-sinking line drive to center that fell just outside the reach of the speedy and diving McKenzie Woody’s glove, allowing Tucker to score the game’s winning run, which was unearned.
Watson struck out six and walked none, scattering six hits to earn the complete-game shutout win.
Watson is 5-1 with a 0.76 ERA in six starts in Atlantic Sun Conference play.
In game one, Courtney Billington’s fourth-inning, RBI-double was all the Lady Bisons could bring home but it proved to be enough as Kiihnl silenced the Mercer lineup as Lipscomb took game one 1-0.
The junior ace, allowed three hits and four walks while fanning eight batters in the complete-game shutout.
Billington was the only Lady Bison to record two hits in each game Friday.
Lipscomb is 13-1 at home this year with four home games still remaining.
Lipscomb will host Tennessee Tech in non-conference double-header action at the friendly confines of Draper Diamond on Wednesday, April 27.
The Lady Bisons will then host Belmont in the “Battle of the Boulevard” on Saturday, April 30th.