Hugs abounded. There was a prayer circle and one last speech from Lipscomb Lady Bisons’ coach Kristin Ryman. And before they left the field Sunday at the Alabama Softball Complex there were also some smiles.
The Lady Bisons didn’t win the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional, but they advanced to the finals, losing to Alabama’s Crimson Tide 6-0 in front of more than 2,100 fans.
It was the first trip to an NCAA Regional for the Lipscomb softball team, which won both the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season and tournament titles.
“Overall, I am extremely proud of our team with the fight and the resiliency they have shown all weekend,” Ryman said. “This is the closet any Lipscomb softball team has ever been, and I think that is in large part to our seniors and what they have done in leading this team.
“I don’t think we ever came into this postseason wanting to just be happy to be here. I think we came in wanting to win it. We knew that was going to be an extremely tough task, but that’s what we were here for. These girls never stopped from an effort standpoint and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
In Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Lady Bisons, Alabama relied on bunts and infield hits to produce runs. Sunday home runs made the difference with four of the six runs coming off of three home runs.
“They beat us with their short game Saturday and today they came out and relied on the long ball,” Ryman said. “That’s the team they are. Alabama can beat you in so many different ways. That’s why they are at the top right now.
“I love the way our girls kept fighting and battling, never giving in. This just wasn’t our day.”
It was only the fourth time the Lady Bisons were the victim of a shutout this season. The last time they were unable to score a run in a game was March 18 at Hawai’i , an 8-0 loss.
Lipscomb starting pitcher Whitney Kiihnl gave up a solo shot down the left field line to Courtney Conley with one out in the second inning.
The Crimson Tide struck again in the third as Amanda Locke hit her 15th home run of the season, a two run-shot over the left center field fence with two outs.
Conley opened the sixth inning with a solo home run over the left field fence on the first pitch, her 10th of the season. Kiihnl was lifted for senior Alaina Jacobson after that at bat.
The Crimson Tide added two more runs in the sixth on a sac fly to center and a throwing error by Lipscomb catcher Mollie Mitchell on a pick-off attempt.
Alabama chose to use their ace, Kelsi Dunne, 29-4, in both games against the Lady Bisons.
Mitchell lined a single to left field in the fifth for the Lady Bisons, but was caught stealing. She, and center fielder Lauren Dortwegt, were the only Lady Bisons to get a hit off of Dunne.
“Kelsi Dunne is a great pitcher,” Ryman said. “As soon as she gets you guessing, you are just about done.
“Friday when we saw her, we were guessing a little too much early in the game, but then we settled down and started taking our hacks and being aggressive. Today, we were taking our hacks and being aggressive, but we just guessing a little bit more.”
The Lady Bisons ended the most successful season in program history with a 50-13 record. Alabama advances to Super Regional play with a 51-9 worksheet.
It was the last game in a Lipscomb uniform for Dortwegt and fellow seniors Abby Keese, Kellie Sirus, Christen Campbell, Christy Grisham and Alaina Jacobson.
“It was one of the best experiences I have had in the past four years,” Dortwegt said. “We came here to make an impression, and I definitely think we did that for our school.
“This has been quite a ride as a senior. I don’t think there is a better way to end my four years.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.