ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Lipscomb softball team is making a rare trip north this weekend in hopes of bouncing back strong after a disappointing start to the season.
Lipscomb finished 1-4 at the Sand Dollar Classic in Gulf Shores, Alabama, but closed with a 6-1 win over Southern Miss.
There are five more games ahead for the Lady Bisons this weekend in the Total Control Sports Invitational co-hosted by Illinois-Chicago and Loyola-Chicago at The Dome at Rosemont.
The indoor facility offers some challenges for Lipscomb. The ceiling is 75 feet high and balls that bounce off the roof are subject to the umpire’s discretion as to whether it is a home run, hit, foul ball or an out.
It will also be the first time the Lady Bisons have ever played on an artificial turf surface. Players will have to wear turf shoes or molded cleats.
The Lady Bisons were able to practice in the facility Thursday morning.
“The girls are excited,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “There are going to be some challenges unique to that facility. We hopefully won’t allow those things to play a role in the outcome.”
Ryman is confident her team will perform at a higher level than the opening weekend of the season. She is looking for consistency both at the plate, in the field and in the circle.
“Last weekend there were moments of weakness in our hitting, pitching and defense and there were also some good things,” Ryman said. “The hard part was we never seemed to click with all three components until the last innings of the last game.
“Our own expectations of this team have been high. I think we walked away last weekend with the feeling we are moving in the right direction. We can get to where we want to go. We, as coaches, have a ton of faith in this team as do a lot of other people and the team itself. It is just a matter of not riding the rollercoaster.”
Ryman stresses one word – trust.
“They have to trust in the game plan and trust in themselves,” Ryman said. “They have to know they can come through in those big moments.”
The Lady Bisons open the tournament against the Quinnipiac Bobcats at 2 p.m. Friday. It will be the season opener for Quinnipiac, a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. It will also be the first time Quinnipiac and Lipscomb have met in a softball game.
At 7 they return to the field to meet Illinois-Chicago from the Horizon League. The Flames are 2-3 on the season. This will be the first time Lipscomb and Illinois-Chicago have played a softball game. Taylor Cairns is the early batting leader for the Flames with a .500 average and a team-leading eight hits. LaRi Mitchell is batting .400.
Saturday the Lady Bisons get an early morning wake-up call to face IUPUI at 9. Like Lipscomb, the Jaguars, from The Summit League, lost their first four games before winning in the fifth one. Taylor Chitwood is the offensive force for IUPUI and is the early leader in all offensive categories, including a .375 batting average and four extra base hits.
It will be a busy morning for the Lady Bisons as they play Iowa, from the Big 10, at 11:30 a.m. Iowa opened the season 2-3. They lead the Big 10 with a 2.25 earned run average. They have three hitters batting above .300 and are led by Claire Fritsch with a .385 average.
The Lady Bisons are 3-0 overall in the series with Iowa. The teams last met in 2014 with Lipscomb winning 10-0 in a game called after five innings due to the run rule.
The Lady Bisons are up early against Sunday to face Eastern Kentucky, from the Ohio Valley Conference, at 9 a.m. The Colonels enter the tournament with a 3-1 record. Kayla Joyce is the offensive leader with a .500 batting average and a .714 slugging percentage.
Lipscomb is 4-2 overall against Eastern Kentucky. The two teams have not met since 2010.
“It is kind of a unique field for us,” Ryman said. “That is good thing about these early tournaments is you get a mixture of teams. It will be a neat change to play some teams we don’t usually see.”
Games will be available through live stats on Lipscombsports.com.