The Lady Bisons opened the week ranked 39th in the NCAA RPI. The Blazers are 38th.
Each team got one vote for the Top 25 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. The Lady Bisons, however, earned 24 points for the Ultimate College Softball Top 25 and five in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25. UAB did not receive votes in those polls.
The Lady Bisons were challenged by the Blazers, who play in Conference-USA. The Lady Bisons won game one 1-0, but dropped game two 7-5 Tuesday afternoon at Draper Diamond. That loss ended an 11-game home winning streak for the Lady Bisons. It was only their second loss at home this season in 16 games.
The Lady Bisons have already clinched a berth in the Atlantic Sun Tournament and lead with a 14-2 conference record.
The win in the first game ended a four-game losing streak to the Blazers, dating back to the last time the teams met in 2002.
Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman wanted to see more intensity from her team in the non-conference doubleheader.
“We can’t base our effort and our intensity level on who we are playing, conference or non-conference,” Ryman said. “It shouldn’t matter. Our intensity effort has to be the same.
“UAB played extremely well. They pitch well. They hit well. That is why they have won as many games as they have and why they are doing well in their conference.”
In game one the Lady Bisons scored the only run of the game in the first inning. Lead-off hitter Lauren Dortwegt reached base on an error by the Blazers third baseman and moved to second on the throw. Abby Keese singled to center field to score Dortwegt.
Whitney Kiihnl pitched her fifth no-hitter and 11th shutout of the season. Her record is 25-2. The shutout was the 24th of the season for the Lady Bisons.
In game two the Blazers jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a home run by Cameron Skates and a two-RBI single by Lauren Webster. The Lady Bisons tied the game in the second inning. Courtney Billington scored after leading off the inning with a double to center when Christen Campbell reached base on an error by the left fielder. Mollie Mitchell then hit a two-run homer, her first of two in the game.
In the third the Blazers took the lead again when Maegen Hornsby slammed a three-run homer.
The Blazers added another run in the fifth on an RBI single by Hornsby to left.
The Lady Bisons attempted a rally in the sixth. Mitchell led off with a home run. Mckenzie Tucker drove in a run with a single. Billington led the Lady Bisons with three hits, including one double, her 15th of the year.
“I thought Courtney hit the ball extremely well in the second game,” Ryman said. “Mitchell hit the two home runs. I thought our No. 5, 6 and 7 batters hit pretty well.
“I’m not saying other people didn’t hit the ball solid at times. But consistently we didn’t get anything going except for that part of the order.”
Campbell started on the mound for the Lady Bisons. She lasted two innings, giving up five hits and three runs, all earned. She struck out two and did not walk a batter.
Alaina Jacobson threw four innings. She also allowed five hits, but she gave up four runs, all earned. She walked three and struck out. She was credited with the loss, dropping her record to 3-4.
Kiihnl closed out the game with a scoreless and hitless seventh inning. She struck out one of the three batters she faced.
“It is a hard lesson that we have learned,” Ryman said. “It was good for us to be challenged by a good team.
“I didn’t really like our approach. I thought we fought hard in the second game to turn it into more of a game.”
The Lady Bisons are 38-10. Alabama-Birmingham is 28-15.
The Lady Bisons play their final two Atlantic Sun regular season doubleheaders on the road. They travel to Campbell Saturday and then visit Belmont Tuesday. The final regular season doubleheader is scheduled at Draper Diamond May 6.
“We only have six games left before the tournament,” Ryman said. “We’ve got six seniors who have put so much into this the last four years.
“We have to go out wanting to stick someone every game. Every pitch has to mean something. We have to be playing with a purpose and that is to win games and get as far as we can in the postseason.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.