KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A lot of people have asked Lipscomb softball coach Kristin Ryman why she would choose to play games against three formidable opponents so late in the season.
As she stood on the field at Lee Stadium Saturday night all she needed to do was point at the scoreboard where the Lady Bisons has prevailed 1-0 in nine innings against Radford in the first day of the Tennessee Invitational.
“The answer is exactly what we just went through with Radford,” Ryman said. “We battled mentally and physically to get that win.
“If we don’t learn those lessons now we are not going to be tournament ready. This was a postseason type of atmosphere. I definitely think we are going to take a lot from this game.”
A walk-off double by Abby Fenichel drove in Destinee Brewer with the only run of the game. Brewer had led off the ninth with a walk.
Kelly Young, 12-8, went the distance in the circle. Young’s performance enabled Fenichel to be in the position to get the game-winning hit.
“Kelly was in a groove,” Ryman said. “You could see it with the very first batter. She was really attacking the zone.”
“I am thankful we were finally able to get something going offensively to get the win for her. She should not have lost a game like that.”
Young tied her season and career high with 15 strikeouts. She gave up two hits and walked only two batters for her third shutout of the season.
“She did everything she could to secure a win. She absolutely set the tone early. She controlled the game.
“One of the things we have been talking about with the team as a whole, and especially the pitchers, is limiting the freebies. We have to cut back on the walks and hit by pitches. Kelly absolutely did that and it paid off in a big way for her.”
In the first, second, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings she struck out two batters.
“We have talked a lot as a team about attacking offensively and defensively,” Young said. “I think that goes for pitching as well.
“Whether I get ahead in the count or not, if I am attacking with every pitch and keeping the hitters on their heels a little bit I think that is a win. When we are the home team if we can come out with a quick start on defense that kind of sets the tone.”
Abby Morrow, 17-13, threw a complete game for Radford. She scattered five hits, walked two and struck out three.
Brewer was the game leader in hits with two.
“We struggled to break through offensively, but we didn’t get down,” Ryman said. “We stayed the course. We did not allow frustration to sink in.
“I think a lot of that goes to show how much confidence we have in Kelly. It is easy sometimes to get down in those situations, but knowing Kelly was controlling the game allowed our hitters to stay up beat.”
Lipscomb is 24-22 overall. Radford, from the Big South Conference, falls to 29-18.
- Elmore did not have a hit in four times at bat ending her team season high hitting streak at 15 games.
- Caitlin Plocheck, who got the first hit of the game with a ground ball single into center field in the second inning, extended her streak to seven games, the longest current streak on the team.
- The double by Fenichel was her 13th of the season.
- Young’s nine innings pitched is the longest outing of the season. Tanner Sanders went eight innings March 5 against Youngstown State.
- Kasey Gibson stole her ninth base of the season.
Next up: The Lady Bisons have some momentum as they head into Sunday’s games. At 11 a.m. they face No. 9 Oklahoma. They close out the day against host Tennessee, No. 12/13 in the country, in the final game of the day at approximately 1:30.
Oklahoma, 36-7, beat Tennessee, 34-12, by a 9-0 score Saturday. Oklahoma followed that effort with a 9-0 win over Radford.
“I hope we continue fighting,” Ryman said. “We have nothing to lose Sunday. If we do what we are capable of we are going to give ourselves a chance.
“We are not assuming for a second that it is not going to be extremely challenging. But at the same time we have a lot of confidence in our kids. It will be a good test to challenge our players to bring the energy and the all-out relentless fight we have talked about all year long.”