NASHVILLE, Tenn. – How the Lipscomb Lady Bisons start a game makes a big difference in how most of their games end.
After using last inning displays of hitting to win the first two games in the Florida Gulf Coast series this weekend at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium, the Lady Bisons fell short Sunday afternoon in a 5-3 Atlantic Sun Conference loss.
“FGCU had a stronger start than we did,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “We have talked all year about how important it is for us to have a good start. We have to have a strong start in every facet of a game.
“We want to be in a position where we are taking advantage of our at bats early in the game and not have a mentality where we have seven innings to work through it. Defensively we have to have a great start. Our pitching has to have a great start.”
The Lady Bisons are 19-4 overall, 4-2 in the A-Sun. FGCU is 13-10-1 overall, 1-2 in the conference. The loss ended a six-game winning streak for the Lady Bisons.
FGCU opened with a run in the second inning. But the Eagles did the most damage in the fourth inning when Chelsea Zgrabik connected for a grand slam over the right field fence for a 5-0 lead.
The Purple and Gold did not go away quietly. In the fourth and fifth innings they failed to score with bases loaded. But in the sixth with two out Kelsey Cartwright slammed a three-run homer down the left field line to trim the FGCU lead to 5-3.
Each team finished with nine hits. Each team also left 10 runners on base.
“We had a lot of hits, but we just left too many runners on base,” Ryman said. “We couldn’t get them across. At times this year we have done a really good job of driving runners in and getting those hits.
“At other times we have left a lot of runners on base, but we have gotten a key hit in the right moment and still won games. That caught up with us a little bit against FGCU. We left too many on. We weren’t getting those key hits and they did. That was a big factor.”
Brittany Elmore and Kelsey Cartwright each pounded a double. Kelsey Cartwright and Mimi Cartwright tied for the game-high in hits with three apiece.
“We stressed to our players after the game to not underestimate any of their at bats,” Ryman said. “Haley Elliott comes in as a pinch-hitter in the sixth and draws a walk that sparks the entire inning.
“It is about the type of swings we take and the types of pitches we swing at. Every single time you go to the plate you have to do your job and try to make something happen.”
Right-hander Tanner Sanders, 7-2, started for the Lady Bisons. In 3.2 innings she scattered seven hits and gave up five runs, all earned. She walked four and struck out one.
“It was not a great outing for Tanner,” Ryman said. “She worked out of some jams early on.
“She just has to do a better job, as do all of our pitchers, in getting ahead and finding ways to get outs when we need them. They need to be consistent in hitting their spots.”
The Lady Bisons turned to left-hander Ashley Anderson in relief. In 3.1 innings she gave up two hits and struck out four.
“Ashley has not had a lot of work in a while in relief,” Ryman said. “I thought Ashley did a nice job of coming in and keeping them where they were.”
Jackie Owen, 3-1, threw 5.2 innings for FGCU for the win. She struck out five and walked four in addition to giving up the nine hits.
The Lady Bisons will head east Tuesday for a 2 p.m. doubleheader at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville. Ryman wants to see a change in attitude by her players.
“We were on the defensive Sunday,” Ryman said. “We have to get out there and get ready to Tennessee Tech. When you spend the entire game trying to fight back, rather than trying to score and extend your lead, it definitely wears on you.”