NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lipscomb Lady Bisons assistant coach Mollie Mitchell found herself in a surprising situation.
Sunday afternoon, as the Lady Bisons were competing with USC Upstate for control of the three-game series, Mitchell found herself serving as the head coach. She guided the Lady Bisons to a 3-2 win over the Spartans, who entered the series ranked 24th nationally.
The Lady Bisons are 11-7 in the Atlantic Sun, 24-19 overall, after winning two of the three games. USC Upstate slips to 16-3, 35-5 overall.
At the end of the first inning umpires met at Lipscomb’s dugout and concluded that bats had been added after inspections had taken place. Head coach Kristin Ryman was thrown out of the game as a result.
Mitchell felt she needed to reset her emotions by meeting with the players on the field.
“I called time and walked out to the circle,” Mitchell said. “I told them, `guys, this is more for me than it is for you’. I just needed to take a deep breath and relax real quick.”
The decision proved to be a spark for the Lady Bisons. Trailing 1-0 after a game-opening home run by the Spartans Meredith Barnes to left center, the Purple and Gold answered with a tying run in the third on singles by Heather Montgomery and Bridgette Begle.
“The girls came together and got fired up,” Mitchell said. “They decided they weren’t going to lose. It (ejection) wasn’t the spark we were looking for, but we will take it.”
Kristen Sturdivant put the Lady Bisons out front to stay with a two-run home run to right-center in the fourth.
“That was a great hit by Kristen,” Mitchell said. “I knew it was gone. She just crushed the ball.”
Tanner Sanders, 14-7, started for LU. She gave up only two hits and two runs, one earned, in 4.2 innings. She walked four and struck out three.
“How about Tanner bouncing back?” Mitchell asked. “She gave up a lead-off home run and then gave up only one more hit.
“I was super proud of her. It takes a lot of mental toughness for a pitcher to do that. They just have to trust in what they know. You can see the work she has put in. Tanner has grown up tremendously.”
With bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning, Mitchell sent Heather Parker to the mound to close out the game. Parker forced a ground out to end the inning. She shut down the Spartans for the final 2.1 innings allowing only three hits and striking out one.
“Switching from Tanner to Parker was such a change in style,” Mitchell said. “Parker wasn’t on Saturday and she knew that. But I knew if she came out and threw her game she would be effective.
“I wasn’t nervous because I knew what Parker was capable of doing. Parker is a very smart pitcher. She has to be hitting her spots and she was hitting every spot we asked her to hit. If they hit Parker I knew they weren’t going to crush it.”
But Shellie Robinson gave the Lady Bisons a scare in the seventh with a two-out triple to right field, but Parker forced the next batter to ground out to Paige Neely at third base.
The Lady Bisons managed only five hits. Sturdivant added a single as the only player on either team to connect for two hits.
“We just got our hits at the right time,” Mitchell said.
Anna Miller, 3-1, started for USC Upstate. She struck out three and walked one. Hannah Alexander closed out the game for the Spartans. She did not allow a hit or a run in two innings while striking out a pair of batters.
The Lady Bisons are back in action Wednesday at Draper Diamond for a doubleheader with Western Kentucky starting at 5. The Lady Bisons have won 10 of their last 13 games and eight of their last nine A-Sun games.
“I am proud of the girls for continuing to fight,” Ryman said. “I am proud of Mollie for calling a good game and making some really good moves in a tight game.
“She kept to the game plan. Mollie has a good head on her shoulders. She is going to be a really good coach one day if that is what she wants to do.”
Ryman will be required to sit out the first game of the A-Sun series with Mercer Saturday and Sunday in Macon, Ga. It was the first time she had been ejected in her coaching career.
“It was just a situation where I had already filled out the form and we had a couple of bats tossed into the pile,” Ryman said. “I don’t think it was anybody’s fault. Apparently, I filled out the form before all the bats were ready.
“I have to fill out a form and mark which bats we are using and how many we are using. Once we start a game with that set number we can’t have any more thrown in.”
Everything mattered in the series with the Spartans which was the biggest of the season so far for the Lady Bisons.
“This was huge weekend for us,” Ryman said. “We came into the weekend thinking we could maybe find some of their weaknesses.
“After beating them twice I can say USC Upstate doesn’t have many weaknesses. They are very athletic. They swing the bat very aggressively and very well. Defensively they are incredibly sound and they pitch well. But we continued to work our game plan and a lot of that had to do with Mollie and the notes she had compiled.”