KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The time for preparation is over.
The Lipscomb Lady Bisons went through a workout Thursday on a cloudy day at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium. But Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman is more concerned with the mental approach of her team than what she saw physically.
“At this point in the game it is more a matter of getting your head in a good spot and being confident in what you can do,” Ryman said. “We want our players to focus on our strengths.
“We want them to focus on what they can control like their approach at the plate, what pitches they are swinging at and making quality swings. And we want to make sure that the pitches we are throwing are good pitches.”
The Lady Bisons, 39-13, will face Virginia Tech, 35-21, Friday afternoon at 2:30 in the Knoxville Regional. Tennessee, the No. 10-seed nationally, and the host team with a 42-10 record, will play Charleston Southern, 27-31-1.
The infield is one of the firmest the Lady Bisons have played on this season. They spent an hour in the batting cages Thursday before working out in the field for another hour.
“It gave us an opportunity to not only get a feel for the field and how it plays, but to get out there and shake out some jitters, practice and get after it,” Ryman said. “I think the girls had a good time. We tried to mix a little fun in there.
“At this point if you try to do something different it takes you out of your game. We don’t need to do anything different. We just need to execute our game plan.”
The firmness of the infield required some adjustments.
“It is a harder surface and they typically keep it that way,” Ryman said. “Overall, the field plays quick.
“We are going to have to be prepared to move our feet defensively, We are not going to have the luxury of being one or two steps behind and still making a play. Balls are going to be shooting through the infield pretty quick.”
Ryman was also pleased with the work of her players during hitting exercises.
“We had a chance to continue to work through some things,” Ryman said. “It is a matter of making good choices at the plate. Things are going to take care of themselves if we do that.
“If we go up there trying to get the big hit every single time that is when things can get out of control. Our goal is to move runners from station-to-station and find ways to manufacture runs. We have to get the clutch hits.”
Series history: This will be the second meeting between the Lady Bisons and Virginia Tech this season.
On Feb. 9 the Lady Bisons beat Virginia Tech 2-1 at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium on the Lipscomb campus in the Music City Classic. Senior first baseman Kristen Sturdivant sealed the win with a solo walk-off home run.
The only other hit in the game for the Lady Bisons was a double to left field by Brianne Welch. She advanced to third on a bunt and scored on a wild pitch in the third inning.
Lipscomb sophomore right-hander Tanner Sanders went the distance in the circle. She allowed only two hits, both to Virginia Tech’s Vanessa Gonzalez. In the second inning Gonzalez’s first hit was a solo homer.
The Lady Bisons are 3-0 in the series with Virginia Tech from the Atlantic Coast Conference. This is Lipscomb’s second NCAA Regional. This is the third straight regional for Virginia Tech, the seventh overall.
Ryman and assistant coaches Megan Rhodes Smith and J.J. Dillingham have pored over scouting reports and studied video of Virginia Tech. But they have been careful not to overload the players with information.
“Right now, I don’t want them getting wrapped up in things like the batting averages of Virginia Tech players,” Ryman said. “They just need to know the basics.”
Bank on it: Virginia Tech’s Kat Banks has strong ties to Lipscomb. Her sister, Alex, plays for the Lady Bisons basketball team. Her brother, A.T., is a student at Lipscomb.
Kat’s father, Alan, was an NAIA All-American basketball player at Lipscomb. He was inducted in the Lipscomb Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996.
Where they rank: Lipscomb left-hander Ashley Anderson’s 19 wins this season was the second highest total in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Anderson, Tanner Sanders and Heather Parker have combined for 85 complete games in their careers, ranking them in the top-10 among active A-Sun pitchers according to conference records.
Three Lady Bisons – Sturdivant, Kelsey Cartwright and Haley Elliott - are ranked in the top 30 in the A-Sun record books for career home runs. Sturdivant has 32 followed by Cartwright with 29 and Elliott with 27.
Regional stats: This is the first time an A-Sun team has played in the Knoxville Regional. The A-Sun has usually played in the Gainesville, Florida and Tuscaloosa, Alabama regional. This season USC Upstate is playing in Tuscaloosa. Stetson is playing In Gainesville.
This is also the first time a Lipscomb athletics team has received an NCAA at-large bid.
The Lady Bisons are 2-2 in NCAA Regional play with two wins over UAB and two losses to Alabama. The .500 record in regional games is tied for the best winning percentage in conference history.