Thursday morning in the first game of the Atlantic Sun Tournament Sirus drove in two runs as the top-seeded Lady Bisons beat Campbell, the No. 6 seed, 4-1 at Patricia Wilson Field at Stetson University.
Sirus was one of three Lady Bisons with two hits in the game. Senior third baseman Christen Campbell and senior center fielder Lauren Dortwegt also had a pair of hits.
However, both of the hits by Sirus were for extra bases with a double in the first inning and her 13th home run of the season which ties Abby Keese for the both the team and A-Sun lead.
“Kellie is one of the best mechanical hitters that we have,” Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman said. “Her mechanics were slightly off in the middle of the season after a strong start.
“Now she has kind of relaxed again and gone back to do what she does best without thinking about a lot of other stuff. She is right back where she was to start the year. She has a confidence at the plate that a lot of hitters don’t really have.”
Sirus, from Sarasota, Fla., leads the A-Sun overall in runs batted in with 43. She likes to be at the plate with runners on base.
“When runners are on base it gives me more confidence to go out there and do something really good with my at bat,” Sirus said. “I just try to stay calm and swing at good pitches. I want to score runners or move them up.”
She has elevated her level of play in the past several weeks.
“Kellie has been batting a lot better the past few weeks and the timing couldn’t be better,” Ryman said. “She is in that RBI spot for a reason.
“She never seems to lose her confidence. She doesn’t feel a lot of pressure. She just goes up to the plate looking for her pitch and looking for something to drive.”
Whitney Kiihnl struck out 14, the 12th time this season she has recorded double figures in strikeouts. It is also her second highest strikeout total of the season. She gave up four hits and one unearned run in throwing her 16th complete game. She raised her record to 29-2.
“It was another great outing from Whitney,” Ryman said. “We don’t necessarily need that many strikeouts, but we are going to continue to need good outings from her and she knows that. She is prepared mentally for that.
“Last year was an eye opener for her. She knows what to expect. If we can stay in the winner’s bracket we are talking about four games and that is doable for her. We just need to play well behind her.”
The Lady Bisons , 45-10, will play USC Upstate, 38-14, at 5 p.m. Upstate, the No. 4 seed, lost 1-0 to No. 3 seed Kennesaw State in the first game of the day.
The Spartans are led by pitcher Morgan Childers, one of the top pitchers in the nation.
“One through nine they are a very athletic team,” Ryman said. “They have a strong hitting team. Morgan Childers is one of the best pitchers in the league. They are as good as anybody in the conference in pitching and defense.
“We talked briefly with our players about switching gears for this game. We need to turn the page. We have to put this game behind us.”
Against Campbell the Lady Bisons scored in the first inning. Lauren Dortwegt led off with an infield hit and moved to second on a sac bunt by Mackenzie Tucker. Sirus slammed a line drive past the third baseman for a double that brought Dortwegt home. In the second inning the Lady Bisons added another run with a solo shot over the left field fence by Mollie Mitchell.
Campbell cut the lead to one with a run in the third.
In the third Sirus picked up her second RBI of the game with a solo home run blast to right center.
After a scoreless fourth inning the Lady Bisons took advantage of a couple of miscues by Campbell in the fifth. Tucker reached base on an error by the second baseman and went to second on an errant throw. Abby Keese bunted with Tucker scoring on a throwing error by the third baseman. Lacy Walker entered the game as a pinch-runner for Keese and was thrown out attempting to steal second.
Sirus and the rest of the seniors have been to the conference tournament every season they have worn a Lipscomb uniform. They know it is their last chance to win the tournament title and the automatic NCAA Tournament berth, but they are trying not to dwell on it.
“We have been doing great all season,” Sirus said. “We just have to continue to do what we have been doing all season and not think about this as extra pressure because this is our last time.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.