A 3-2 loss to No. 4-seeded USC Upstate Thursday night at Patricia Wilson Field at Stetson University gave the top-seeded Lady Bisons a split in day one. They opened with a 4-1 win over Campbell.
Friday at noon they will face No. 3-seeded Kennesaw State, the only team in the tournament that beat the Lady Bisons during the regular season. The only other regular season loss was to Mercer.
Kennesaw State, 27-25, lost 4-3 in the seventh to Stetson in the last game of the tournament Thursday night. The winner of the game between Lipscomb and Kennesaw State will face Stetson, the No. 2 seed and the tournament host, at 5.
“Kennesaw has a good player in Jessica Cross,” Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman said. “She is a two-way player who is their top pitcher and a power hitter. They have a good young pitcher in Abbey Meixel who beat us.
“They are a good, athletic team. They are going to hit the ball. They are going to expect to win.”
Stetson, a 4-3 winner over Kennesaw State in the last game of the day, is the only unbeaten team. Four others are 1-1. Campbell, the tournament champion the past two seasons, was eliminated after losing twice the first day.
Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman was disappointed with the outcome of the first day, but she doesn’t expect to make any changes in her plans.
“The game plan hasn’t really changed a whole lot,” Ryman said. “It is just going to take us more games to get to where we want to be.
“We cannot afford to come out and be on the defensive at all. We have to come out and be the aggressor.”
The Lady Bisons spotted Upstate a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning.
Kellie Sirus tied the game with one out in the top of the sixth with her second home run of the day and her 14th of the season. Sirus leads the conference in home runs overall.
Mackenzie Tucker reached base on an infield hit. Sirus drove her home with her shot to center field.
“Kellie has been that spark in the middle of order order that has come through in clutch RBI situations,” Ryman said.
Whitney Kiihnl recorded double figures in strikeouts for the second game of the day with 10, but she could not hold on for the win. She has reached double figures in strikeouts in 13 games this season. She struck out 14 in the Campbell win.
Kiihnl’s record is 29-3. She dodged a number of bullets including a bases-loaded situation in the third.
“It was a long day for Whitney,” Ryman said. “But she just kept battling and battling. It was a gutsy performance from her. There were two or three times she had runners on third and she got the outs.
“Upstate has a good group of hitters. They go up there and take their hacks.”
The Lady Bisons threatened in the top of the seventh with runners on second and third. Caroline Mason reached base on an infield hit to the shortstop. She advanced to second on a sac bunt by Kiihnl. Lauren Dortwegt reached base on a fielder’s choice and stole second. But the Lady Bisons failed to score.
In the bottom of the seventh Kim Brasil led off the inning with a triple off the wall in left center for Upstate. With one out Katie Zauner lined a shot down the left field line to bring in the winning run.
Morgan Childers, one of the top pitchers in the conference, only gave up six hits on the way to her 32nd win of the season.
“Somebody has to come out the loser’s bracket,” Ryman said. “I thought Upstate played extremely well. They hit well and kept the pressure on us. We had some opportunities that we let slip away.”
Courtney Billington led the Lady Bisons with two hits. Ryman thought the Lady Bisons hit the ball with some authority, but they couldn’t get enough hits.
“We hit a lot of balls well, but we hit them right at people,” Ryman said. “Christen Campbell and Kellie both had deep fly balls that were caught right on the warning track. Caroline Mason hit a shot to left right at a girl. Mollie Mitchell hit a hard one right to the right fielder.
“The bottom line is Upstate made plays. You don’t get credit for the ones you hit right at people.”
The Lady Bisons are 45-11. Upstate, which avoided elimination with the victory, is 39-14.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.