Lady Bisons ready to step into the national spotlight
Sunday, February 16, 2014
By Mark McGee
Lady Bisons ready to step into the national spotlight

WACO, Texas – Make room for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons on the national stage.

The polls won’t come out until Monday, but the Lady Bisons should be getting some level of national attention.

“We came into this weekend knowing it was going to be a really good test," Lady Bisons coach Kristin Ryman said. "We knew it was going to give us a feel of where we belong on a national stage. We come away thinking we should be on a national stage. We made a loud statement. That is what we wanted to do. 

“We have beaten some really good quality teams. We don’t want to act like we have arrived. We want to keep getting better every single time out. Talk about getting one percent better every day. We got clutch hits and clutch plays defensively when we needed them.”

It was truly a team victory for the Lady Bisons as they closed out the Getterman Classic Sunday morning with an 8-6 win over UAB in eight innings. Six different players recorded hits and three pitchers went to the mound for the Lady Bisons.

The game was tied 5-5 after seven innings.  The game lasted 3:13.

“Early on you could tell it was going to be a long game," Ryman said. "Both pitchers were working deep into counts. Both teams had to make pitching changes.

“It was a back and forth game. Both teams had runners on base each inning. It was definitely an emotional game. We came in on a high and did what we have been doing. Our girls punched back against a really good team. That’s what we wanted to see."

In the eighth with the tie breaker runner on second base, Gracey Aguirre hit a two-run homer over the left field fence. Haley Elliott followed with a single.  Rena’ Cothron doubled and Brianne Welch walked. Paige Neely brought in Elliott with a single to first base.

UAB managed one more run in the bottom of the eighth, but could not do any more. Tanner Sanders, the third pitcher for Lipscomb in the game, picked up the win. It is her fifth in as many appearances.

With the win the Lady Bisons are 8-1, the best start through the first nine games since 2010.  UAB dropped to 3-6.

“We are very excited with our start,” Ryman said. “The girls have worked hard for this. They have put themselves in a position to be here. They are working on the details working on the extras on their own.

“It is all starting to pay off. We are executing in the moment. We are able to stay in the moment. We don’t let one rough inning or a couple of runs that we give up dictate the entire game.”

The Lady Bisons broke a 0-0 tie in the third when Brianne Welch led off the inning with a double. She scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Paige Neely.

In the fourth the Lady Bisons added two more runs. Rena’ Cothron’s RBI-double to left field was the big hit of the inning.

After allowing UAB to score a plate of runs in the fourth, the Lady Bisons quickly responded in the fifth. Neely reached base on a single but was out on a fielder’s choice by Kelsey Cartwright. A home run by Kristen Sturdivant to left field drove in Kelsey Cartwright for a 5-2 lead.

Ashley Anderson started the game for the Purple and Gold, but was relieved by Heather Parker in the fourth. Parker was able to get the Lady Bisons out of a bases loaded jam.

In the fifth Parker struggled with two walks. She then gave up a three-run homer to UAB’s Kristen McGrath to tie the game. Sanders relieved and closed out the inning without allowing a run.

Anderson gave up two hits and two runs, both earned, in 3.1 innings. She struck out four and walked two. Parker allowed three hits and three runs, all earned, in 1.1 innings. She walked two and struck out two. Sanders hurled 3.1 innings, scattering four hits and allowing one unearned run. She struck out one.

The Lady Bisons finished with nine hits, with five of them coming from the last three slots in the batting order.

“It is interesting because we don’t have top to bottom a lineup where everyone is going to be hitting .300 or higher,” Ryman said. “But they are finding ways to do the little things.”

In the UAB game, Neely, the No. 2 hitter finished with two hits and two runs batted in. Cothron and Welch each finished with two hits. Cothron connected for two doubles. Cothron bats eighth and Welch bats ninth.

Cothron is batting .333 and Welch is hitting .318. They join Neely, with a .500 average, as the only Lady Bisons hitting about above .300. Aguirre is close at .296.

“Rena’ is off to a really great start,” Ryman said. “She is getting quality at bats. She draws a lot of walks. She has great eye at the plate.

“She battles with each at bat. She is one of our best two-strike hitters. She brings a lot to the table. She is a tough out.”

Welch is in the lineup on a regular basis for her first time with the Lady Bisons.

“Brianne is taking advantage of the opportunity,” Ryman said.  “She is somebody we talked a lot with in the offseason about limiting strikeouts. She is doing that.

“She is another one who is battling at the plate. She is learning with every at bat. She is going to find ways to make things happen. She worked so incredibly hard in the offseason. She has really attacked her weaknesses and has found ways to get better.”

Neely, Welch and Sanders were named to the all-tournament team.

The Lady Bisons are back on the road Friday for the Blues City Classic in Southaven, Miss. The University of Memphis is the host team.