NASHVILLE, Tenn. – One game stands between the Lipscomb softball team and the start of the Atlantic Sun Conference season.
Thursday afternoon they will take a 12-2 pre-conference record into a single game matchup with Belmont, 5-6, in the softball version of “The Battle of the Boulevard”. The game is scheduled for 3:45 at Rose Park.
Originally scheduled as a doubleheader for Wednesday the extreme cold weather prompted the change. The two will meet in another single game later in the spring.
“We are trying hard right now to focus on us,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “We know that the conference season is going to be a challenge.
“We noticed detail things last weekend at the Blues City Classic. We have challenged them in practice this week with little things that need to be changed. We want to see those things in action against Belmont.”
One of the areas that Ryman will be looking at closely is the defensive play of the Lady Bisons.
“We need to see if we can continue to take steps forward with the little tweaks in our defense,” Ryman said. “We need to have a little more sense of urgency defensively. And there is a difference between having a sense of urgency and rushing.
“Some of the mistakes we are making defensively are because we are either not paying attention or we are not anticipating well. Those are things within our control.”
The polls, the polls
For the second week in a row the Lady Bisons have received votes in the two main top 25 polls. They received three votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 and one vote in the USA Today/NFCA Poll.
“I think it always means something to be in the conversation of the national top 25,” Ryman said. “To be in that conversation with nationally recognized teams is a compliment. It is a reflection on how we are playing, and the wins we have got against good competition.
“Postseason teams are determined more by the RPI than the top 25 and the first RPI won’t come out for a while. At this point we are focusing on what we need to do to get better. If the votes keep coming that is going to be a plus.”
Conference play in the sun
Saturday at 12 p.m. the Lady Bisons will open the first conference series of the season in Jacksonville with a doubleheader against North Florida. Sunday’s single game is also scheduled for noon. All games will be available on A-Sun TV.
The Lady Bisons were picked to finish third in the conference in the preseason vote of the coaches. North Florida was a close fourth.
“Obviously, the A-Sun has great softball,” Ryman said. “We know it is not going to be a piece of cake all the way through. Starting off with North Florida is going to be a huge challenge for us.”
Hits keep coming
The Lady Bisons have three players batting .400 or higher - Paige Neely and Brianne Welch are tied for first on the team with .417 averages. Gracey Aguirre is batting .400.
Rena’ Cothron is hitting .345. Kristen Sturdivant at .297 and Kelsey Cartwright with a .295 average are knocking hard on the .300 level.
Neely leads the Lady Bisons with 15 runs batted in. Sturdivant has 10.
“The offense is individually based right now,” Ryman said. “We want to make sure our hitters are making the adjustments they need to make. We have been hitting the ball well for the most part the entire preseason. We have several people up and down the lineup that are really clicking.
“We have really worked hard on our hitting. We have added a couple of new things, added some new drills and added a different focus while still maintaining our philosophy of hitting. The key is trying to maintain it.”
Left-hander Ashley Anderson is 4-0 for the Lady Bisons with 21 strikeouts and a 1.35 earned run average in 31 innings. Right-hander Tanner Sanders is 5-1 with a 1.98 ERA. Heather Parker is 3-1 with a 3.20 ERA. She has struck out 18 batters in 19.2 innings
“If we need to use more than one pitcher against Belmont we will,” Ryman said. “The ultimate goal is to find a way to win.
“If we are doing all of the things we have talked about this week, and we are taking steps forward, that will be a bonus.”