NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Last season the Lipscomb Lady Bisons were rewarded for their fearlessness in scheduling with an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament by an Atlantic Sun softball team.
They joined with USC Upstate as the first two A-Sun teams to receive at-large bids to the softball tournament.
“The RPI is extremely important,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “We started with that intent when we began scheduling for this year.
“We know we are not going to win every single game on our schedule. We know we are not going to win every game against top 50 teams. But we truly believe scheduling top 50 and even top 100 teams are going to be a key.”
Ryman has never had a problem with assembling challenging schedules for her teams. The 2015 schedule follows that path.
The Lady Bisons will play 17 teams that finished in the top 100 of the NCAA Division I RPI last season. Jacksonville, an A-Sun foe, was ranked 101st.
Seven of their non-conference games will be against teams that finished in the RPI top 25 – Alabama (No. 2), Michigan (No. 11), Missouri (No. 16), South Alabama (No. 20) and James Madison (No. 24). The Lady Bisons ended the 2014 season with a No. 33 ranking.
Eleven of the teams on the schedule played in NCAA Regionals in 2014 and Michigan and Alabama advanced to Super Regionals.
Of the 55 games scheduled 17 are against teams in the top 50 with multiple games against some of those opponents.
“This is a team that we feel confident about,” Ryman said. “We know we are going to win enough of those games to keep us in that conversation.
“We lost quite a few starters from last year and some of the starters we do return are changing positions. But we are excited about the new players we have added, both transfers and freshmen. All of them are going to compete. They are quality both on and off the field and they are going to be difference makers.”
The Lady Bisons open the season with four straight home games at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium as part of the Music City Classic, which is co-hosted with Belmont.
Missouri-Kansas City is the scheduled season opener at 4 p.m. Feb. 6. On Feb. 7 the Lady Bisons will face IUPUI at 2 p.m. followed by Indiana State at 4:30. They close out the tournament against Ball State, No. 76 in the RPI, Feb. 8 at 3 p.m.
“It is a good way for us to start,” Ryman said. “We can work through some things early and get some questions answered right off the bat.
“We are opening at home, which is unique. I think last season was the first time in my (nine) years as coach that we started the season at home.”
Valentine’s weekend will be spent in Mobile, Alabama at the Mardi Gras Classic hosted by South Alabama. The Lady Bisons will play Butler Feb. 13 at 12:30 p.m. and Feb. 15 at 10 a.m. They will face Oklahoma State, No. 58 in the RPI at 2:45 Feb. 13. On Feb. 14 the Lady Bisons face Evansville at 9 a.m. South Alabama is the foe at 11:15 a.m.
The Lady Bisons return to Alabama Feb. 20-22 for the Easton Bama Bash hosted by the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. They play James Madison Feb. 20 at 11 a.m. and Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. They also face Michigan twice with games at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 20 and 11 a.m. Feb. 21. They close out with Alabama Feb. 22 at 1:30 p.m.
This will be the first time the Lady Bisons have faced Alabama on its home field since the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
After a single game with Belmont in softball’s version of the “Battle of the Boulevard” Feb. 25 at home at 2 p.m. the Lady Bisons will host the Courtyard by Marriott-Brentwood Purple and Gold Challenge Feb. 28-March 1.
The Lady Bisons open against Drake Feb. 28 at 12:15 p.m. followed by Central Michigan at 2:30. On March 1 they play Akron at 1:15 p.m. and close with Dayton at 3:30 p.m.
On March 3 they travel to UAB, No. 40 in the RPI, for a doubleheader at 4 p.m. in Birmingham.
Three home games are next with Tennessee Tech visiting March 5 at 3 p.m. followed by Mississippi State at 3 p.m. March 10 and SIU-Carbondale at 3 p.m. March 11. All three are single games.
The Lady Bisons are in Raleigh, North Carolina March 13-15 for the North Carolina State Hyatt Place Select Invitational. The Lady Bisons will play Missouri, their third SEC opponent this season, at 1:30 p.m. March 13 followed by North Carolina State, No. 31 in the RPI, at 6 p.m. On March 14 they face Longwood, No. 61 on the RPI, at 9 a.m. and Binghamton at 8:15 p.m. They play Fordham, No. 57 on the RPI, at 2 p.m. March 15 in the final game of the tournament.
The A-Sun portion of the season opens at home with a doubleheader with Stetson March 21 and a single game March 22. Both days the first pitch is at 1 p.m. Stetson was No. 35 in the final RPI.
Western Kentucky, No. 80 in the RPI, visits for a doubleheader March 24. The Lady Bisons make the short trip across town March 25 to face Tennessee State.
Next on the schedule are back-to-back A-Sun road trips. The Lady Bisons head north to Highland Heights, Kentucky for a doubleheader with Northern Kentucky March 28 and a single game March 29th. Starting time each day is noon.
On April 3 and 4 the Lady Bisons head south to Jacksonville for a doubleheader and single game. The doubleheader starts at 3 p.m. and the single game begins at noon.
The Lady Bisons return to Draper Diamond April 7 to play Memphis at 4 p.m. On April 8 they welcome Chattanooga at 5 p.m. Both are single games.
On April 11 and 12 the Lady Bisons are in Spartanburg to face USC Upstate for a doubleheader and a single game. Both days the action begins at noon.
The final home games of the regular season are April 25, a doubleheader with Kennesaw State, and a single game April 26. The doubleheader is at 4 and single game starts at 2.
The Lady Bisons fly to Fort Myers to face Florida Gulf Coast to close out the regular season. A doubleheader is scheduled for 4 p.m. April 30 with a single game May 1 at noon.
The A-Sun Tournament will be hosted this season by Florida Gulf Coast from May 6-9.