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Lady Bisons head to Regional Championship with Tennessee
Saturday, May 17, 2014
By Mark McGee
Lady Bisons head to Regional Championship with Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb Lady Bisons have been to an NCAA Regional two times and for the second time they find themselves playing the host team for the chance to advance to a Super Regional.

Sunday afternoon at 1 the Lady Bisons, 41-14, will face Tennessee, the No. 10-seed nationally with a 44-10 record at Lee Stadium. Coming out of the loser’s bracket is never easy in a tournament, but the Lady Bisons climbed back into contention with a 12-3 win over Virginia Tech Saturday night that was preceded by a 4-2 victory against Charleston Southern.

“This is exciting for us,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “The girls have worked really hard to get to this point.”

The Lady Bisons had opened the regional with a 4-3 loss to Virginia Tech. Now they are one of 32 teams still playing.

If a second game is needed it will be played at 3:30.

“We got not only a win tonight, but a big win over a team that beat us Friday,” Ryman said. “Right now, our players are just excited about the opportunity. They know if we bring the fire that we brought against Virginia Tech we are going to have a chance.

“I am very excited for our players. This is a feeling I have had before but this is a feeling I have been dying for them to have…to not only get to a regional but to get to the final game. To still be standing on Sunday is huge.”

The Lady Bisons pounded out 12 hits. Haley Elliott, with two home runs and a single drove in six runs. Bridgett Begle also had three hits.

Elliott cleared the left field fence to drive in two runs in the fourth. She bounced a home run off the top of the scoreboard in left center for three runs in the seventh. She also had an RBI single.

Brittany Elmore added two hits and two RBI. She drove a ball in the seven-run seventh inning that went past the right fielder with the bases loaded. Elmore was credited with a single and two RBI but all three runners scored. Elmore also scored due to the error.

Paige Neely finished with two hits.

Brianne Welch got it started for the Lady Bisons offensively in the second inning with an RBI-triple to right field.

“We finally got the offense clicking again which is huge going into Sunday,” Ryman said. “For this team hitting is contagious. This was survival mode for us. We were able to grind out two wins.

“In the first game as a team we could tell we were tensed up a little. As we were getting to the end of the game we told them we needed to go out and play our game.

“We needed the spark that we had Friday night. We got a couple of key hits and found a way to win. In game two the spark returned. After the first game there was a sense of relief. We have played well as the underdog all year.”

The Lady Bisons have never beaten the Lady Vols in eight games. The last time they played was a 6-0 decision Feb. 26, 2013.

Ryman met with Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly following the Virginia Tech win.

“He had his congratulations for us and we appreciate that,” Ryman said. “We tried to find a way to schedule them this year. It was hard to find a date that worked out for both of us. I just told him we are going to get to play each other after all.”

Tennessee has won both of its regional games in five innings beating Charleston Southern 12-3 and Virginia Tech 12-0. The Lady Vols hit six home runs against Virginia Tech.

“They hit,” Ryman said. “Top to bottom they can hit it out and they did it against Virginia Tech. It is going to be a challenge.”

Sanders was smooth: Right-hander Tanner Sanders raised her record to 12-4. She has two wins over Virginia Tech this season. She also has beaten Baylor and Iowa along with a pair of wins over UAB.

Sanders allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out one.

The coaches agreed Friday night that Ashley Anderson would pitch game one and Sanders would face Virginia Tech.

“This was the point in the tournament where we needed a good performance out of someone other than Ashley,” Ryman said. “Tanner was ready to go in game one in relief if we needed her.

“In game two she did everything we needed her to do. She stayed tough mentally out there for us.”

Regional notes: The Lady Bisons are the first Atlantic Sun team to win two games in the same day in a regional since Florida Atlantic did it in 2004.

The last time an A-Sun team has won two games in a regional was 2010 when the Lady Bisons beat UAB in two games and lost twice to then top-seeded Alabama in the Tuscaloosa Regional.

The Lady Bisons are 4-3 overall in regional games.

The Lady Bisons are the only A-Sun team still playing in a regional. Both USC Upstate and Stetson were eliminated after winning their first games Friday.

“We were happy for Stetson and Upstate getting their wins in extra innings against two very good teams,” Ryman said. “We felt like we didn’t do our part for the conference when we lost to Virginia Tech even though we played a good game.”

Game one recap: Left-handed pitcher Ashley Anderson won her 20th game of the season in the 4-2 defeat of Charleston Southern. She scattered six hits, walked four and struck out four.

Kristen Sturdivant hit a solo home run over the 220-foot mark in center field to lead off the seventh that almost went to the railroad tracks beyond Lee Stadium. It proved to be the game-winner though the Lady Bisons added an insurance run.

Sturdivant has 10 home runs for the season.

The 42 wins are the second most for the Lady Bisons in the NCAA era. They won 50 in 2010, the last time they went to an NCAA Regional.

Brittany Elmore collected her 26th stolen base of the season.