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Sunday, March 22, 2009Lipscomb right-hander Josh Smith may be the most under-rated pitcher in the Atlantic Sun.
Smith, pitching his typical Sunday assignment, struck out 11 batters in 7.1 innings and gave up five hits, one walk and one run, in a 3-1 over Stetson at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium. The only run was off of a solo home run to Casey Frawley to right field in the first inning.
The Bisons swept the three-game Atlantic Sun series, their second home conference sweep in a row. They managed only three hits, but they were both home runs. Antonio Butler hit a solo shot to left center with two outs in the third inning. Justin Sanders slammed a two-run shot down the left field line in the fourth.
“Sweeps are hard to come by,” said Bisons coach Jeff Forehand. “Our guys understand that each weekend it is a different game. We respect all the opponents in the conference.”
Smith’s 11 strikeout total was one short of his career high of 12 set May 16 last season in a complete game 6-1 win at Campbell. Smith ran his record to 3-0.
“Josh hasn’t gotten any attention all year long,” said Bisons pitching coach Lantz Wheeler. “Every time he goes out there he gets it done. He has been dominating at times.
“He has been fantastic for us. He could be the Friday night guy for a lot of teams in our conference. I think he is that good.”
Wheeler points to Smith’s wide range of pitches, especially his ability to move his fastball around.
“He has the ability to throw four pitches for strikes,” said Wheeler. “He is throwing the fastball to both sides of the plate this year as he tries to do a lot more. That is what has made the difference for him.”
Charles Williams earned his first save of the year. He did not give up a hit or a run in the final 1.2 innings. He walked two and struck out three.
The Bisons are off to their best ever start in the Atlantic Sun and are 11-10 overall. Forehand is not getting overly excited about the early part of the season which includes two wins at Mercer and three wins over USC Upstate.
“You don’t want to be surprised, but I am definitely happy with where we are,” said Forehand. “Our league is so good, Being 8-1 is great right now. But it really doesn’t mean a whole lot.
“The way the league is built it could change. Everybody has a good team on the weekends. Stetson is a good team. We had a pretty good pitching performance all weekend long against them.”
The three-hit performance ended a streak of six straight games where the Bisons had collected more than 10 hits. They entered the final Stetson game averaging 13 hits per game.
Sanders ran his new hitting streak to a team-high and career-high 10-game hitting streak. He also had a nine-game streak to start the season. He has hits in 19 of 21 games. Sanders leads the team in home runs with four and RBI with 19. He also leads the team in multi-RBI games with four.
Tennyson Dodd extended his hitting streak to six games. Antonio Butler has hits in his last four games.
“We have to keep relying on good pitching and our hitting coming around,” said Forehand. “If our pitching continues to do what it has been doing on the weekends we can put ourselves into a position to win.”
The Bisons are back in action at home Tuesday night at 6 when Middle Tennessee State visits. The Bisons then hit the road for face Fresno State, the 2008 NCAA College World Series Champion.