NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Each one of them has the capability of putting fear into the heart of a pitcher. Each one of them can explode at the plate with a mighty swing for the fences at any time.
They are the primary power sources for the Lady Bisons – first baseman Kristen Sturdivant, right fielder Kelsey Cartwright and designated player Haley Elliott. All three are seniors who could leave additional memories for fans this weekend when Northern Kentucky visits Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium for the final Atlantic Sun regular season series.
“It has been fun,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “Those are three hitters who can change a game with one swing of the bat.
“We are not going up trying to hit home runs and we tell them that. We are going up to make something good happen and have a quality at bat. If home runs are the by-product of swinging hard, having a plan and a good approach at the plate then so be it.”
Saturday’s doubleheader starts at 4 p.m. Sunday’s game begins at 1 and is “Senior Day”. There are seven seniors to be honored with left-handed pitcher Ashley Anderson, shortstop Bridgette Begle, catcher Rena’ Cothron and right-handed pitcher Heather Parker rounding out the list of honorees.
Sturdivant enters the series as the team leader in home runs with nine. Cartwright has seven and Elliott has hit four. Sturdivant had a career season high 13 last season. In 2012 Kelsey Cartwright slammed 18 to lead the A-Sun. Elliott’s career season high is 11 homers, also in 2012.
“With all three of them I catch my breath with every swing of the bat thinking they are going to get ahold of one,” Ryman said. “They can do it at any moment and change a game.
“They have done it time and time again. That, to me, would be nerve-wracking if I was a pitcher facing them in the middle part of the order.”
Even when one of them is struggling at the plate they still rate respect from pitchers.
“They are always a threat because of the long ball power,” Ryman said. “It is not too often that you can say you have three of those hitters in your lineup.
“There are moments when pitchers pitch around them even though they may not have had a great game at the plate. The other team knows they have that potential and they are making choices on what they think could happen rather than what has happened. That is pretty powerful.”
Ryman loves consistency in hitting, but she also likes what the power threat can do for the rest of the lineup. Joining Sturdivant, Elliott and Kelsey Cartwright as power threats are juniors Brianne Welch with five home runs and Paige Neely with four. Cothron also has four homers.
“We have one threat after another,” Ryman said. “They all possess the ability to drive the ball out of the park. When you have players who can drive the ball out of the park it gives you options.”
Sturdivant often connects for home runs that almost leave fans, and even announcers, speechless for a brief moment.
“I love having Kristen in the No. 4 spot, “ Ryman said. “She is the epitome of a power hitter.
“I tell her all the time that pitchers don’t want to throw to her whether they struck her out in the previous at bat or not. They are nervous because they know what she can do.”
This is the final regular season Atlantic Sun series for the Purple and Gold. They will host the Atlantic Sun Softball Championship May 7-10 at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium.
“Even though the tournament will be here there is something special about playing at home,” Ryman said. “With the seniors it is special every time they step on the field.”
Northern Kentucky, 4-38 overall, 1-19 in the A-Sun, is visiting Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium for a three-game series. Northern Kentucky is coming off a doubleheader split with Eastern Kentucky.
Dee Dee Davis leads the Norse at the plate with a .283 average. She also paces the team in home runs with six. She is tied with Katelyn Roy for the RBI lead with 20.
Northern Kentucky primarily uses three pitchers. Alex Caudill leads the team with 29 appearances, including 18 starts. She is 0-19 with a 9.26 ERA. Alyssa Enrique has appeared in 28 games with 14 starts. She is 3-10 with a 7.25 ERA.
“They do have some hitters who can do some good things,” Ryman said. “If we come out and take care of the ball and do the little things then we should win.
“They are a team that has struggled pitching-wise this year. Offensively is where they are at their best. They are the type of team that goes up hacking. They can sneak up on you in a hurry. Obviously, they are doing some good things of late in getting a win over Eastern Kentucky.”
The Lady Bisons, 36-11, 15-8 in the conference, beat Western Kentucky 7-1 on the road Wednesday night.
Anderson leads the Lady Bisons pitchers with an 18-4 record and 1.49 ERA.
Brittany Elmore has been one of the most dominating players for the Lady Bisons in conference games. She is batting .434, second n conference-only games and is also second with a .522 on base percentage.
She leads in A-Sun games only in hits with 33 and in runs scored with 27. She is third in total bases with 48.
Last season was the first time the two teams had met. Lipscomb swept that series at Northern Kentucky and holds a 3-0 overall series record.