NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It is the start of a long, busy and critical week for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball team.
Classes end Wednesday with spring semester finals scheduled to begin Friday and Saturday with a break on Sunday before exams begin again Monday.
Saturday the Lady Bisons will welcome Kennesaw State to Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium for a 4 p.m. Atlantic Sun doubleheader. The final game of the series is Sunday at 2 p.m. as the Lady Bisons close out the home portion of their schedule.
The Lady Bisons will honor five seniors Saturday.
“This is going to be a big week for us,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “But it is also going to be good for us.
“There will be a lot of extra studying going on this week. We are going to adjust practices. We will do some full team practices, but we will also do some individual work to alleviate the amount of time they spend with us.”
Ryman is hoping that softball practice will help relieve some of the stress her players will be dealing with in the classroom.
“We want them to be excited to be out there and not be stressed about their finals,” Ryman said. “It is a challenge for sure, but it is something we deal with every year.
“Softball, at this point, is the fun thing in their lives. We don’t want softball to create more stress.”
There are six berths in the conference tournament scheduled to be hosted by Florida Gulf Coast in Fort Myers May 6-9. Upstate, Kennesaw State and North Florida have clinched their spots. This weekend’s series with Kennesaw State could earn the Lady Bisons a berth.
“These are very important games,” Ryman said. “We are fully aware we can clinch this weekend.
“I have an idea Kennesaw State wants to continue to finish as high as they can. They are doing everything they can to keep a No. 2 seed.”
Kennesaw State is 12-5 in the conference, 31-14 overall. The Owls have won their last five games.
“They have been playing really well as of late to solidify themselves into that No. 2 spot,” Ryman said. “It is a much-improved hitting team. They have some key power hitters in the middle of the order.
“They also have a ton of team speed. They can put pressure on a defense in a hurry with their speed and how they run the bases.”
Ryman stresses her team has been strong defensively late in the season. Pitchers Kelly Young and Tanner Sanders are putting up solid numbers in conference play in the circle.
“They are two pitchers no one in the conference wants to see,” Ryman said. “Kelly and Tanner are two of the best pitchers in the conference.
“I think everyone knows our record is not indicative of the quality of our team. We have played a rugged schedule. We have gotten a lot better since the beginning of the year. I am proud of this team.”
RPI move: The Lady Bisons, 2-1 for the past week with wins over Tennessee Tech and USC Upstate, moved from No. 81 to No. 72 in this week’s RPI report.
The Lady Bisons are one of four A-Sun teams in the top 100. Upstate is 38th. Kennesaw State is 65th. North Florida is 85th.
“I think we made a pretty good jump in one week,” Ryman said. “It is rare to see a team jump nine points in one week.
“While I think we had a great week, we still have to continue to make that steady climb. The Upstate win was a great win because they have had a great year.”
National rankings: Brittany Elmore, the A-Sun Player of the Week, is fifth in the nation in stolen bases per game with .85.
Paige Neely is 17th in doubles per game with .37.
Abby Fenichel is 12th in the hit by pitch category with an average of .37 per game. Mimi Cartwright is 51st at .23 per game.
Kelly Young is 29th in strikeouts with 176. She is 61st in strikeouts per seven innings with 7.7.
As a team the Lady Bisons are 24th in stolen bases with 1.72 per game. They are 61st with a .967 fielding percentage.