JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball coach Kristin Ryman had hinted all week that she might have some lineup changes in mind.
After starting the same lineup in the field, with the exception of the pitcher, in the first 16 games Ryman did indeed make some adjustments. Brittany Elmore moved from right field to second base to fill in for an injured Kelsey Cartwright. Paige Neely shifted from center field to third. Gracey Aguirre came off of the bench to play in right field. Brianne Welch got the start in center.
“All week we were practicing with people in different positions and seeing what scenarios were maybe the best,” Ryman said. “We have had several people on the verge of getting more playing time. They are finally getting their chances. We are excited when they do produce because we know they can do it.
“I thought Gracey really took advantage of her opportunities. She made a couple of nice catches in right. Brianne hit one ball that we thought was out, but the left fielder made a catch at the wall to keep it in.”
The Lady Bisons opened the Atlantic Sun portion of the season Saturday at the Jacksonville Softball Complex, losing game one 4-3 in eight innings and rebounding in the second game for a 4-3 victory.
LU is 8-10, 1-1 in the A-Sun. Jacksonville is 15-8, 1-1 in the conference. The series continues Sunday at noon (CDT).
“Overall, it was a good day,” Ryman said. “I’m really proud of them. But we have to find the best combination defensively to match the best lineup offensively.
“We had a tough luck loss in the first game where we were kind of back and forth and lost it in extra innings. Emotionally, that is a lot to deal with. We talked about staying composed. I thought we did a nice job in the second game of coming back out with a lot of fight and swinging the bats early.”
Neely moved to third base for both games and responded with four hits in seven trips to the plate including a two-run homer to right field for the first two runs of game two. It was Neely’s first home run of the season.
“Paige made some outstanding plays at third,” Ryman said. “She brings a lot of quickness. She has a really strong arm over there. She made some nice throws on the run and took several hits away.”
All the runs in game two were driven in by home runs. In the fourth Aguirre slammed a two-run homer over the center field fence, also her first of the season.
First baseman Kristen Sturdivant connected for four hits in six at bats including a solo blast to left field to lead off the fifth inning in game one. She also added a double in game two.
Elmore was making her first start at second. She had played the position in summer ball.
“She practiced at second a couple of days in the fall,” Ryman said. “She has done such a good job in right field for us that we didn’t want to move her. But at the same time, she is probably our best option at second with Kelsey not being in there.
“She made some nice plays. She has good range. She looked really comfortable there.”
Ryman liked what she saw defensively with the changes, but she was disappointed with the number of strikeouts by her players. In game one there were 11 LU strikeouts and nine hits. In game two there were six strikeouts and seven hits.
“We got production throughout the lineup,” Ryman said. “One thing is we had too many strikeouts, especially at the top part of the order in the first game.
“The middle of the order was really hitting the ball pretty well, putting the ball in play and making things happen. But the top part of the order wasn’t getting on especially in the first game.”
In game two right-hander Tanner Sanders raised her record to 4-3. She gave up three runs; all earned, walked one and struck out three in seven innings. Two of the three hits she allowed were home runs.
Right-hander Heather Parker, 3-6, pitched 7.2 innings in game one. Only one of the four runs credited to her was earned. She walked seven batters and struck out two.
Ryman and her coaching staff were scheduled to meet to discuss Sunday’s pitching plans. Left-hander Ashley Anderson did not make an appearance in Saturday’s doubleheader.
“It will be another tough game,” Ryman said. “Parker had too many walks and she knows that, but overall she pitched a pretty good game. Tanner gave up a couple of big hits, but also threw a good game.
“We will come up with a plan for pitching. Offensively and defensively we will go with what is working.”