Despite the poll Lady Bisons’ coach Kristin Ryman admitted she felt like an underdog as the Atlantic Sun season started this weekend. After sweeping both ETSU and USC Upstate Ryman thinks her players have put any confidence issues behind them.
Sunday afternoon the Lady Bisons swept a doubleheader from the Spartans, ranked No. 25 in one poll, on their field at Cyril Stadium in Spartanburg, S.C.
The Lady Bisons are 15-11, 4-0 in the A-Sun. The Spartans slipped to 30-5, 2-2 in the conference.
The Lady Bisons won game one 7-3 and swept the series with an 11-6 win in game two.
“Confidence-wise they are starting to see what we are capable of as a team,” Ryman said. “I think they have seen it in spurts as individuals, but they are starting to feed off of each other as a team which is pretty dangerous with this group because of how competitive and athletic they are.”
Mollie Mitchell and Caroline Mason led the hitting barrage for the Lady Bisons in the USC Upstate doubleheader.
“Those two have had great weekends,” Ryman said. “That is exactly what we need. We need those two to continue to take their hacks. Their power numbers are going to come if they continue to have a good approach at the box and swing the bat hard. They did that this weekend and the hits came.”
In the two games Mitchell had five hits and seven runs batted in with two home runs and two doubles.
“Mollie has put a lot of pressure on herself so far this year,” Ryman said. “I really felt her relax this weekend. She doesn’t have to get the big hit every time. She just has to swing the bat hard.
“She is in attack mode at the plate. She can do some pretty unbelievable things when she is in that mentality in the batter’s box."
Mason connected for five hits and drove in five runs with two doubles and two home runs.
“Hitting is definitely a strong suit for Caroline,” Ryman said. “She had just struggled to find her consistency the last couple of years. Some of that was dealing with being a freshman. Last year she was dealing with injuries and was in and out of the lineup.
“She is finally settling in. I think a lot of it is her understanding her role on the team and knowing we need her to be a good, consistent power-type hitter for us.”
The Lady Bisons connected for 13 hits in game two. Hannah Alexander started and gave up 10 hits and seven runs, four earned, in 3.1 innings. She walked one and struck out two.
Morgan Childers, the starter in game one, pitched the last 3.2 innings. She allowed three hits and four runs. She walked four and struck out five.
The Spartans opened the game with a 1-0 lead in the first on a home run to right center by Katie Zauner.
In the third the Lady Bisons scored three runs as Courtney Billington drove in a run with a single to second and Haley Elliott brought in two runs with a double to left field.
In the bottom of the third the Spartans answered with five runs with three on a home run to right field by Lauren Quevedo.
The Lady Bisons came right back in the fourth. Bridgette Begley opened the inning with a double down the left field line. Bree Thurman singled and stole second.
Mollie Mitchell slammed a two-RBI double. Caroline Mason hit a two-run homer to right center.
In the seventh the Lady Bisons added some insurance as Mitchell hit a three-run homer to center field and Mason added a solo shot to left.
J.J. Nelson started the game and pitched 2.2 innings. She gave up four hits and five runs. She walked one and did not record a strikeout.
Ali Watson pitched one-third of an inning and gave up one hit, a home run.
Whitney Kiihnl, who won the first game, throw the final four innings. She scattered three hits, walked one and struck out three. Kiihnl raised her record to 12-6.
The Lady Bisons struck first and last in the 7-3 win in game one.
The Lady Bisons beat Childers. It was only her third loss of the season for Childers who came into the game leading the nation in wins with 21.
In the first inning the Lady Bisons scored a pair of runs. Mackenzie Tucker walked with one out. Mason doubled to right center to score Tucker. Billington then plated Mason with a single to left.
The Lady Bisons added two more runs in the third inning. Tucker walked again. Mitchell brought Tucker home on a two-run home run blast to left field.
In the fourth USC Upstate closed the gap with three runs on a pair of doubles and a single.
The Lady Bisons came back strong in the seventh with three runs to seal the game. Kiihnl helped her own cause with a lead-off single to center. She advanced to second as the USC Upstate center fielder struggled to field the ball. With two out Tucker singled through the right side of the field to score Kiihnl.
Mitchell collected her third RBI of the game with a double to right field that sent Tucker home. Mason singled to left center to bring in Mitchell.
Kiihnl scattered seven hits. She walked one and struck out seven.
Childers allowed eight hits. Only five of the runs she gave up were earned. She walked three and struck out four.