Softball riding wave of confidence into A-Sun Tourney
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
By Mark McGee
Softball riding wave of confidence into A-Sun Tourney

FORT MYERS, Fla. – In a season of ebbs and flows the Lipscomb Lady Bisons are riding a wave of momentum bigger than those being generated by the winds over the Gulf Coast this week.

“We feel really good right now,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “We have had some good practices the past few days. We are excited to get started and get into the tournament.

“I love what we are doing as a team right now. I think we are playing with a lot of confidence. There is a sense of excitement, but also a sense of calm for this team right now.”

The Lady Bisons have a seven-game winning streak on the line heading into the Atlantic Sun Championships at the softball complex at the Florida Gulf Coast campus.

“Not too many of our past teams could say they were coming into the tournament with a streak like this,” Ryman said. “There were times when we were wondering if we were going to make the tournament.

“I know we let some games slip away from us early on in conference play as well as non-conference play. There was a lack of confidence at times. We had some key injuries we had to work through.

The tournament gets underway Wednesday with No. 4 North Florida No. 5 Jacksonville playing at 2 p.m. CT and No. 3 Kennesaw State playing No. 6 Stetson at 4:30.

The Lady Bisons are the No. 2 seed and have earned a bye in the first around along with No.1 seed USC Upstate. The Lady Bisons will face the winner of the game between Kennesaw State and Stetson Thursday morning at 9 a.m. CT. All games can be seen live on ESPN3.

“The one negative is the unknown of not knowing who we are going to be playing,” Ryman said. “We haven’t had the last week to prepare for one team.

“The best thing you can do in a scenario like that is to focus on your team. We know the challenges those two teams present. What do we need to do to win?”

The experiences this season with Stetson and Kennesaw State were completely different. The Lady Bisons played Stetson early in the season at home and lost the series 2-1. They played Kennesaw State  at home in the second to last A-Sun series of the regular season and swept the Owls 3-0.

“We played Kennesaw State a time when I thought we were playing some our best softball,” Ryman said. “Maybe we didn’t catch Kennesaw State at its best, but I really love what we did as a team understanding what was at stake for both them and for us.”

The Lady Bisons came into the series needing a win to qualify for the tournament. When the series ended the Lady Bisons had moved into the second place spot previously held by Kennesaw State.

“We did a great job of executing both offensively and defensively,” Ryman said. “I thought they (Owls) played a tremendous series defensively and we did everything to match that. I thought we hit the ball well all weekend.”

The Stetson series was played at a time when the players and coaches were looking for answers to the Lady Bisons problems.

“We weren’t playing our best softball at the time,” Ryman said. “There were still a lot of unknowns. We were dealing with injuries.”

We’re No. 2: This is the fourth time the Lady Bisons have entered the tournament as the No. 2 see. Last season they were No. 2, but didn’t earn a spot in the championship game. They did, however, earn one of two at-large bids for A-Sun team in the NCAA Regionals.

In 2011 as the No. 2 seed they finished as runner-up to Jacksonville. In 2009 they beat ETSU and Stetson, but lost twice to No. 3 Mercer.

The Lady Bisons lone tournament championship was 2010 when they entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed.

Familiar place: The Lady Bisons are making their ninth appearance in the A-Sun Tournament and their 10th overall.

Unfamiliar place: The last two seasons the A-Sun Tournament has been held at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium on the Lipscomb campus. In 2012 it was played at USC Upstate. Only seniors Paige Neely, Brianne Welch, Gracey Aguirre and Jordan Abell were part of the 2012 team.

30-30?: The Lady Bisons enter the tournament with a 29-23 record. They have won 30 or more games in each of the last six seasons. The last time they finished a season with 29 wins is 2008 when they were 29-26.

Elmore stealing away: Elmore’s 104 career stolen bases move her into second place all time in the Atlantic Sun. She has 42 stolen bases this season, tops overall in the A-Sun. She is fifth in the A-Sun in stolen bases in a season. She needs three to move into a tie for fourth place and four to tie for third highest season total.

Multiplier effect: Elmore and Neely are tied for the team lead with 16 multi-hit games. Baylee Williams and Aguirre are tied for second with 12 each.

Williams and Aguirre are tied for the team lead with eight multi-RBI games.

Getting very streaky: Aguirre enters the tournament with hits in her last nine games . She has reached base in her last 11.

Elmore’s 19-game hitting streak has been the longest of the team this season. She also had a 30-game reached base streak. Both ended last week at Florida Gulf Coast.

RPI report: The Lady Bisons enter this week as the No. 62 team in the RPI. There are three other A-Sun teams in the top 100 – USC Upstate (40), Kennesaw State (78) and North Florida (79).

POTW mark: Kelly Young was named A-Sun Pitcher of the Week four times this season. It is the most times a Lady Bisons has won the award in one season since pitcher Whitney Kiihnl won five times in 2010.