NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Just when they thought it was all over, the Lipscomb Lady Bisons got a second chance at a softball life.
Rejuvenated. Exhilarated. Excited. These are just some of the adjectives to describe the mood of the Lady Bisons as they went through three hours of practice at hot and humid Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium Monday afternoon.
“They were looking forward to practice,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “Some of them wanted to go to McQuiddy Sunday night and work out once we knew we were going to the tournament. That is exciting for a coach.”
“Practice at this point in the season can be monotonous. If you ask players in any sport they will tell you that at this point in a season they are in game mode. They are living for the games. But they are beat up, tired and worn down, and they aren’t in practice mode at the end of a season.”
Monday the focus was intense. Players were asking questions. Many requested extra work.
“It was a hot day, but it was a good day overall,” Ryman said. “We got some defense in and some hitting in. Our pitchers got a chance to throw. We will be back at it Tuesday.”
They couldn’t wait to get back together as a team with a purpose. Saturday morning, with no guarantee of postseason play after two losses in the Atlantic Sun Tournament, the Lady Bisons worked on hitting in McQuiddy Gym.
“We gave everybody the day off Friday,” Ryman said. “Saturday we told them, if there was even the slightest chance we could get in, we were going to get together and do a hitting workout indoors. We tried to focus on what we had not been doing well.
“We got a good hitting workout in. It was kind of a weird vibe. Our players wanted to be excited because they had the hope they were going to get a bid. But I think the fear of not getting in was also pretty intense especially with seven seniors staring potentially at the end of their careers.”
There have been more than a few weird and anxious moments since the Lady Bisons lost 2-0 to Stetson and 3-0 to USC Upstate Thursday afternoon. Now all three are in the NCAA Tournament, the first time the A-Sun has sent more than one softball team to be part of the 64-team field.
The Lady Bisons played a long waiting game before they heard their name mentioned on the NCAA Selection Show Sunday night. The coaching staff tried to stay away from the “what ifs” especially during the Saturday workout.
In the announcement of the second to the last bracket they learned they would be heading east to the Knoxville Regional hosted by the University of Tennessee. The Lady Bisons, 39-13, will face Virginia Tech, 35-21, Friday afternoon at 2:30. Tennessee, 42-10, will play Charleston Southern, 27-31-1, in the other game at 5.
“It seemed like an eternity waiting to see how the A-Sun Tournament was going to pan out, having to wait all day Sunday just for the show to come on and then having to wait almost until the end of the show,” Ryman said. “It was a little odd to play the waiting game and not know what was going on.”
This is the second trip to an NCAA Regional for the Lady Bisons. They last played in the Tuscaloosa Regional in 2010 where they went 2-2, beating UAB twice and losing to Alabama twice.
It is the first at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament for a Lipscomb athletic team.
Kelsey Cartwright, who went to the NCAA Regionals as a member of Auburn’s softball team, is the only Lady Bison with experience in the tournament. Unfortunately, she is sidelined with an injury.
“This is something these players have dreamed about since they were little girls,” Ryman said. “When our name was called there was a lot of emotion.
“This is something we work for every season. This is something we want our players to experience while they are here. “
RPI move: Despite losing two games in the A-Sun Tournament the Lady Bisons moved up a spot to No. 32 in this week’s NCAA RPI after two weeks at 33rd.
National rankings: As a team the Lady Bisons are 22nd with a .750 won-loss percentage. They are 35th in scoring with an average of 5.77 runs per game. They are 37th with a 2.29 earned run average.
Individually, senior left-hander Ashley Anderson moved up to 23rd with a 1.53 earned run average.
Brittany Elmore is 43rd in runs scored with .96 per game. She is 37th in stolen bases with .50 per game.