MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Paige Neely is a unique softball player combining the ability to hit with consistency with the potential to also flex her power at the plate.
She is having no trouble doing either one at this stage of the season. She is batting .342, second highest for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons. She also has seven home runs, second highest on the team.
“Paige is a very valuable piece of our lineup,” LU coach Kristin Ryman said. “She is so athletic. She can drive a single up the middle, hit a double or hit the ball out of the park. She can hit a ball in the infield and with her speed she can beat it out.
“She is so driven. She has the athletic ability to drive in runs. She has home run power which she has really shown recently. I’m excited for her. It makes her extremely dangerous. And our other batters feed off of that.”
Heading into Wednesday’s game at Middle Tennessee Neely has a five-game hitting streak tying her with Brittany Elmore for the team lead. Neely was named Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Week for her .875 batting average, including a grand slam, in a series sweep of Mercer.
“Paige is in a groove right now,” Ryman said. “She is seeing the ball well.
“She is hitting with as much confidence right now as any player we have had all season. Overall she has had a good year so it is not surprising she is hitting like she is now.”
Game time for the first game of the doubleheader is 4 p.m. It is the final mid-week, non-conference series for the Lady Bisons who are 27-21 overall. Middle Tennessee is 5-43.
Neely is tied with Elmore for the team lead in multi-hit games with 15. She is tied with Kristen Sturdivant for the team lead in multiple-RBI games with eight. She leads the Purple and Gold in runs batted in with 33 and runs scored with 33. She is second to Sturdivant with a .542 slugging percentage.
“I am seeing the ball really well lately,” Neely said. “And when you are seeing the ball well you don’t think as much.
“In the past I had really focused just on making contact as a hitter. But when I got here they talked to me about trusting my ability and swinging hard instead of just making contact.”
She is driven to be the best player she can be. She can often be found taking extra practice in the batting cage in McQuiddy Gym or working with the coaches or other players on a specific part of her game.
“She is a competitor,” Ryman said. “She holds herself to a very high standard.”
Neely doesn’t know any other way to approach the game she loves.
“If you are going to succeed in anything you have to have drive and you have dedication,” Neely said. “You have to work hard every day. That is something that I do.”
Neely didn’t transfer to Lipscomb until the spring semester. She had played shortstop at Austin Peay, but moved to center field for the Lady Bisons. She later moved to third and also played a couple of innings at short Sunday at Mercer.
“When Paige came here in January I asked her where she would be the most comfortable playing,” Ryman said. “She said she would get comfortable with any position we chose for her. And we have moved her all over the place. I am very impressed with what she has done.”
The Lady Bisons open the week ranked nationally as a team in two categories. They are No. 21 in stolen bases with 1.85 per game, 89 total. They are 17th in triples with 14, .29 per game.
Individually, Elmore has 28 stolen bases. She is 31st in the nation with .58 per game. Gracey Aguirre is 19th in doubles with .34 per game. She has 13 doubles overall.