FORT MYERS, Fla. – It is balmy in South Florida, but that isn’t stopping Lipscomb softball coach Kristin Ryman from dealing with a case of goose bumps and chills.
A six-game winning streak as the regular season is dying down and the Atlantic Sun Tournament is only a few days away can have the kind of effect on a coach.
“The thing I love the most about this team right now is that we are playing with so much confidence,” Ryman said. “There is such a level of confidence with them right now where they know they can beat anybody.
“I am not sure I saw that early in the year. I wanted to see that and they wanted to feel that. To genuinely see that with them right now gives me goose bumps. They are locked in and fully engaged in what is going on right now.
Thursday night the Lady Bisons swept Florida Gulf Coast in a doubleheader winning 8-0 in game one and 9-3 in game two. The victory in game one guaranteed the Lady Bisons the No. 2 seed in the A-Sun Championship and first round bye.
“Overall, it was a really good day, “ Ryman said. “We had our moments when we didn’t look quite as sharp. Even when it doesn’t seem to clicking in moments we are still finding a way. That was really cool to see.
“There were times during the day where I thought we were really sharp in hitting, fielding and pitching. I think the mark of a tournament team is to push through those moments where you don’t have your best stuff by limiting or preventing any damage.”
The Lady Bisons wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in the nightcap.
They scored one run in the first, three in the second, one each in the fourth, fifth and sixth and two in the seventh.
Lipscomb pitcher Tanner Sanders shut down the Owls through five innings. She gave up two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh.
Big hits for the Lady Bisons were a solo home run to left center by Abby Fenichel in the fourth inning and RBI doubles to right center by Gracey Aguirre and Brianne Welch. They finished with eight hits.
Fenichel led the Lady Bisons at the plate with two hits in three at bats. She also added an RBI in the seventh inning when she was hit by a pitch with bases loaded.
“We want to see top to bottom what we are capable of,” Ryman said. “That doesn’t mean everyone is going to get a hit every game. But it is about getting a spark when we need it.”
Sanders, 13-10, went the distance for the Lady Bisons. She scattered nine hits, struck out six and walked three.
The final game of the series and the regular season is noon Friday. The Lady Bisons, winners in their last five meetings with Florida Gulf Coast, are 28-23, 13-6 in the A-Sun.
With the first win the Lady Bisons earned the No. 2 seed in the A-Sun Championship set for May 6-9 in Fort Myers.
Florida Gulf Coast, 23-29, 5-14 in the conference, is the tournament host, but did not qualify for the final berth.
Game one was scoreless through five innings as Lipscomb’s Kelly Young and FGCU’s Shelby Morgan dueled in the circle until the Lady Bison offense got rolling in the top of the sixth. Baylee Williams opened the frame with a single to left before Welch singled to center to put two aboard.
“Baylee sparked the inning for us with a crucial single,” Ryman said. “That is huge to see as a coach.”
“I thought overall defensively, especially in game one we did a good job,” Ryman said.
A Brittany Elmore bunt single loaded the bases before a pair of Eagles errors broke open the scoring as Mimi Cartwright drove in Welch ahead of Gracey Aguirre, who brought Elmore and Paige Neely across the dish. Laura Dukes then broke the game open with a double that brought both Aguirre and Cartwright around to score. Lipscomb later added the sixth run of the inning when Williams collected her second hit of the stanza to drive in Dukes.
Cartwright and Aguirre then continued the offensive onslaught in the seventh inning driving in two runs to round out the scoring.
Young (15-13) notched her sixth shutout of the season surrendering just four hits in seven innings of work.
“It was a tremendous game by Kelly,” Ryman said. “She didn’t have her usual strike out performance but she still found a way to get a win.
“That is crucial for her this time of the year. She did a nice job throughout the game and was able to keep them off of the board.”
- Fenichel was hit for the 19th time this season.
- The Lady Bisons have won their last five games in a row over Florida Gulf Coast and are 12-6 overall.
- Elmore extended her team-leading hitting streak to 19 games. She also has reached base in 30 straight games, also the highest on the team.
ON DECK: The Lady Bisons will remain in Fort Myers to prepare for the A-Sun Championship scheduled May 6-9.