FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Lipscomb Lady Bisons will face USC Upstate Saturday afternoon for the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship.
In order to win the championship the Lady Bisons will have to beat Upstate twice. The first game is scheduled for noon at the FGCU Softball Complex.
“I told our players somebody had to come out of the loser’s bracket and it might as well be us,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said.
The Lady Bisons had to work their way through the loser’s bracket Friday after losing 4-0 to Upstate in the first game of the day on a walk-off grand slam.
In the final game of the night the Lady Bisons shut down Stetson, the No. 6 seed, 8-0. The game was called in the fifth inning due to the run-rule. With the loss, Stetson was eliminated from the tournament.
“This was exactly what we wanted to do…to get it done in five innings,” Ryman said. “We have a lot of respect for Stetson and how they run their program and what they have done in this tournament.”
The Lady Bisons wasted little time getting on the scoreboard with four runs in the first off of Stetson starter Chelsea Hostetler who had pitched 28 innings in her previous four games in the tournament.
“Hostetler had thrown every pitch for Stetson in the tournament,” Ryman said. “Our approach was to just be patient at the plate. She had a little bit of an injury and they had to make a pitching change.”
Brittany Elmore led off with a single and stole second. Paige Neely reached base on an infield error that allowed Elmore to score.
Laura Dukes brought in a run with a sac fly to center field. Mimi Cartwright scored on a ground out by Caitlin Plocheck to second base. Gracey Aguirre, who had singled, scored the final run of the inning on a wild pitch.
In the second inning Aguirre slammed a home run 220 feet to the deepest part of center field that also brought home Cartwright who had singled.
“It is so much fun as a coach to watch Gracey play right now,” Ryman said. “She is loving every minute of it. She is living in the moment.
“She is playing loose. We are seeing the power, the hitting and even some of the defensive plays she is capable of.”
The Lady Bisons added another run in the third on a sac fly to center field by Brianne Welch to score Plocheck who was hit by a pitch.
The game ended in the fifth as Fenichel, who led off the inning being hit by a pitch, scored on a single up the middle by Elmore.
“Our team played loose,” Ryman said. “The team was pretty loose coming in. They loosened up even more after they scored four runs. They were dancing and singing and enjoying the moment.”
But they also know they have to continue to up their level of play, especially at the plate against Upstate’s Lexi Shubert, the A-Sun Pitcher of the Year.
“We have to continue to make adjustments,” Ryman said. “We have to have quality at bats.
“We saw more quality at bats in the Stetson game. But Shubert is a different type of pitcher. We have to have the right mindset for pregame. We have to make sure we are doing the little things. If we do that we will see a better offensive game.”
Young, 18-13, gave up four hits and struck out four. She walked one.
“Kelly is still not throwing her best,” Ryman said. “She got it done. She has gone out and given us everything she has.
“This is the end of a long year. She has thrown a lot of innings. We have asked a lot of her and Tanner Sanders this year.”
Hostetler, 20-10, took the loss. In two innings she allowed five hits and six runs, three earned. She pitched 30 innings in the tournament.
Taylor Cochran closed out the game. She threw 2.2 innings and gave up one hit and two runs, both earned.
The Lady Bisons are 31-24. Stetson finishes the season 30-20.
Third time around: This will be the third time the Lady Bisons have faced Upstate in the championship game.
In 2013 they lost twice to Upstate to finish second in the tournament. The Lady Bisons were the No. 4 seed and Upstate was No. 2.
“They started talking among themselves and said, we have every opportunity to do what they did to us a couple of years ago,” Ryman said. “They are aware of that, but we can’t talk about winning two until we win one.”
In 2010 the Lady Bisons, the No. 1 seed, beat Upstate, No. 4, 11-0 for their only A-Sun Tournament Championship win.
The Lady Bisons are 4-5 overall against Upstate in the A-Sun Tournament. Upstate is 42-8 overall this season.
Just visiting: The Lady Bisons will be the visitor against Upstate. Ryman stressed the importance of the top of the order – Elmore, Neely and Cartwright setting the tone early offensively.
Stealing away: Elmore stole her 43rd base of the season the fifth best season total in A-Sun history. Her 105 career steals move her into second place in the conference.
Seeing 20-20: Fenichel was hit for the 20th time this season in the Stetson game.
Young is flawless: Young has thrown 12 shutout innings in the tournament and is 2-0. This was her eighth shutout of the season, second best in the conference.
Aguirre arithmetic: Aguirre’s two hits marked the 13th time she has recorded multiple hits this season. Her two RBI move her into first on the team with nine multi-RBI games.
Plocheck for six: Plocheck has reached base in her last six games, the longest active streak for the Lady Bisons.