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Saturday, May 25, 2013
DELAND, Fla. - The merry month of May ended in disappointment for the Lipscomb Bisons baseball team.
Kennesaw State, the No. 7 seed in the Atlantic Sun Tournament, rallied to beat the Purple and Gold 4-2 Saturday morning at Stetson's Melching Field. The loss was the second in the tournament for the Bisons, the No. 6 seed.
"We can't make any excuses," LU coach Jeff Forehand said. "Kennesaw did what they needed to do. It is just baseball.
"We jumped out to a lead. Will Blalock put up several zeroes in a row. We thought we had a double play ball in the seventh but their guy beat it out. Then they put up three singles in a row and the inning got away from us."
The dugout was quiet. There were hugs and obvious disappointment. Center fielder Zach Lowery was at a loss for words, but his dirt-covered uniform spoke volumes about the effort of the Bisons.
The team met on the field following the loss. Forehand delivered his end of the season speech.
"I told them that we had really played well the last half of the season,the last third especially," Forehand said. "It is just hard any time it ends. I am proud of them and they know it."
The Bisons rallied in May posting a 10-4 record. Four hitters batted over .300 during that stretch led by Lowery with a .340 average. Gray Hutchinson batted .333 followed by Tyson Ashcraft with a .314 average and 13 runs batted in. Ashcraft also had four RBI in the tournament with two on a home run against Florida Gulf Coast and two on a single against Kennesaw State.
Lee Wilson batted .309 and Aaron Sandoval led with 14 runs batted in during May.
Much of the improvement for the last third of the season was the result of a meeting led by the senior members of the team after losing two of three games to Stetson the last weekend of April.
"We thought we should have swept the Stetson series ," said Hutchinson, a senior third baseman. "We got together and basically decided if we were going to do it (qualify for the A-Sun tournament) it was on us, not the coaches.
"All of the seniors got together with the team in left field after the last Stetson game. After that meeting we just had a different feeling. We were hot from then on. We won eight of our last nine conference games."
During the Jacksonville series, May 10-12, the Bisons started a pregame ritual which featured jumping jacks, called `Bison' jacks, and some kind of surprise element. Junior catcher Nick Rome was the ringleader with players feeding him ideas.
Before Friday's win over Florida Gulf Coast, catcher Tony DiFelice jumped out of an equipment bag. Saturday centered on a football touchdown pass.
"I have no idea how it got started," said Wilson, a senior right fielder. "In May we started relaxing and winning some games. We were having fun. We tried to mix it up every game.
"We wanted to go out there and have a memory - something we could do before every game. It just kind of clicked. We carried it into the postseason."
Forehand liked what he saw from his team during the pregame gatherings.
"Little things like that pregame ritual keep us going and make the game fun again," Forehand said. "And when you are winning those things are a lot more fun."
The Bisons fought until the end, leaving two runners on base in the ninth against Kennesaw State. Blalock and three other pitchers combined for eight shutout innings, but the four runs in the seventh were all Kennesaw State needed.
Forehand is encouraged by the effort his Bisons showed in the final month of the season.
"Everybody got on the same page a little bit more," Forehand said. "When you win a few games it always helps that."