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Wednesday, May 11, 2011SPARTANBURG, SC – A second consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament is on the line when the No. 2 seed Lipscomb Lady Bisons open the 2011 Atlantic Sun Championship Thursday at 2 p.m. central against host and No. 3-seeded USC Upstate Spartans.
USC Upstate defeated No. 6 seed Kennesaw State 7-5 in first round action Wednesday afternoon. Morgan Childers threw a seven-hit complete game with all five runs allowed being unearned.
Lipscomb traveled to Spartanburg on March 27 and swept USC Upstate in a doubleheader at Cyrill Stadium 7-3 and 11-6. Catcher Mollie Mitchell dominated the Spartans with five hits in eight at bats and slamming two home runs and two doubles. She scored five times and drove in eight runs in the twin bill.
“We feel very confident facing Upstate,” Lipscomb head coach Kristin Ryman said. “We always know that when we play Upstate it’s going to be an emotional battle.
“Typically it’s two of the top pitchers in the conference facing each other. We played them at the start of the conference season and a lot has changed with both teams since then so we have to be ready to go.”
Lady Bisons junior Whitney Kiihnl (19-9, 1.65 ERA) is expected to get the start against the Spartans and Childers (29-7, 1.39 ERA). Both Kiihnl and Childers are former Atlantic Sun Pitchers of the Years and were both selected to this year’s All-Atlantic Sun teams.
Upstate has won its last nine games while Lipscomb has won six of their last seven outings.
Both teams struggled though over a similar two week stretch in early April. The Lady Bisons dropped six games in a ten-game stretch while the Spartans lost six of eight games.
Lipscomb is led offensively by All-Atlantic Sun First Team member Caroline Mason. The right fielder bats .318 with nine home runs and 25 RBI’s. Short stop Courtney Billington hit .266 with 24 RBI’s to earn a spot on the Second Team.
First baseman Lauren Quevedo earned First Team honors for Upstate batting .321 with 12 home runs, third most in the A-Sun. The Spartans lead the conference in batting average with a team mark of .304.
“Upstate is a very athletic team,” Ryman said. “They had a strong start to the season, but fell off a little bit in conference play. They hit the ball well and have power throughout their lineup.”
Lipscomb is 4-0 all-time at Cyrill Stadium.
The winner advances to the tournament semifinals Friday at 11:30 a.m. central time. The loser has to quickly turn around to play an elimination game Thursday night approximately 30 minutes after the completion of the first game.
Fans can follow the whole tournament for free through video streaming at ASun.TV.