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Friday, May 14, 2010DELAND, Fla. _ When the Lipscomb Lady Bisons look back at the 2010 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament they will point to Alaina Jacobson’s pitching performance against Stetson as the most crucial.
Friday night at Patricia Wilson Field Jacobson held tournament host Stetson, the tournament’s second seed, to two hits on the way to a 6-1 win. It was the first loss of the tournament for Stetson. Whitney Kiihnl had started the previous three games and pitched 20 innings., striking out 35. Jacobson gave Kiihnl a much-needed break.
“I can’t say enough about the job that she did and what it means to our team as far as the position we are in at this point,” Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman said. “We owe a lot to her.
“It is so gratifying to get a full seven innings out of her at this point in the season. And she was able to show people she can handle this as well. It was a huge clutch performance.”
The Lipscomb Lady Bisons, the No. 1 seed, are one game away from the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship. USC Upstate and Stetson will play Saturday at noon. The Lady Bisons, the tournament’s top seed, will play the winner for the championship at approximately 2 p.m.
Jacobson closed out the 8-0 win over Kennesaw State earlier in the day with a scoreless seventh inning. Ryman and assistant coach Lexi Myers were so impressed with that effort, coupled with Jacobson’s late season outings that they decided to start her in such a key game.
“We told her to give us everything she could for as long as she could,” Ryman said. “We told her we needed as much out of her as she could give.”
Stetson had seen both Kiihnl and Christen Campbell on the mound this season. They had not faced Jacobson. “She is a very smart player,” Ryman said. “She threw so well at the end of the season and that led to her getting this opportunity. She understands how to pitch. She is not just out there throwing.
“I think it showed throughout the game. She put the ball where she wanted to put it. It was vintage Alaina. She didn’t necessarily wow anybody in the stands, but she kept the batters off balance.”
Jacobson struggled to determine the umpire’s strike zone in the first couple of innings, giving up the lone run of the game for Stetson in the second inning.
“What a gutsy performance by Alaina,” Ryman said. “She had a rough start and walked three in the first two innings. She herself into some jams and worked her way out. As soon as she figured out the umpire’s zone she made her adjustments.”
Jacobson is not the fastest pitcher in the conference. She isn’t going to dazzle anyone with her strikeout totals. But she knows how to get batters out. She is quick to credit her teammates for their strong defensive support.
“I try to mix up my pitches and rely on my defense,” Jacobson, 6-4 this season, said. “It was really all about defense. I can’t do anything without the defense.
“I try to move the ball. I wanted to try to get comfortable and find my zone. I realized I could throw the ball low in the zone and that is where I stayed most of the time.”
The Lady Bisons did not commit an error. The bulk of the defensive work was handled by shortstop Courtney Billington.
“Courtney had a good defensive game,” Jacobson said. “They all did a great job.
Jacobson was not surprised to see her name on the roster as the starting pitcher.
“I was ready for anything at this point," Jacobson said. "I have been practicing and trying to stay ready.“
Most of the work that Jacobson puts into her performances is accomplished behind the scenes. She is a student of the game. She also is a leader of workouts for the pitchers that go beyond what is asked of them in practice.
“She is that player who does a lot of things that nobody ever notices,” Ryman said. “She will study charts. She will pay attention to little things in a game even when she is not pitching to help out both our hitters and pitchers.
“From a workout standpoint she does so many little things that people won’t see. She has been one who takes the initiative and leads the pitching staff through all these workouts. No one really loves workouts, but she has kept a positive attitude and she has changed the mentality of our pitchers.”
Lipscomb’s Kellie Sirus has been the most dominating player offensively in the Atlantic Sun Tournament. In four games she has four home runs, two doubles and 11 runs batted in.
Sirus continued her home run assault, slamming a three-run shot over the center field fence in the first inning. She drove in Lauren Dortwegt and Mackenzie Tucker who had both reached base on singles.
In the third Mollie Mitchell doubled to left center to bring in Sirus who had opened the inning with a walk. Mitchell scored when Abby Keese singled to left.
Tucker singled up the middle in the sixth to bring in Kiihnl who reached base on an infield hit and moved to second on a sac bunt by Dortwegt.
The Lady Bisons are 47-11, the second highest win total in the history of the program and two short of the all-time record of 49 set in 1997 in the NAIA era.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.