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Anything can happen as A-Sun softball closes out regular season
Thursday, May 5, 2016
By Mark McGee
Anything can happen as A-Sun softball closes out regular season

KENNESAW, Ga. – The postseason fate of two teams hangs in the balance this weekend.

It sounds a little dramatic but this softball season the Atlantic Sun Conference has been known for parity where even one setback can cost at least one and maybe two or spots in the standings.

Three teams are vying for the final two spots in the conference tournament. Two of them, Lipscomb and Kennesaw State, face each other in a three-game series Friday and Saturday at Bailey Park on the Kennesaw campus.

A doubleheader is scheduled for Friday starting at 4 p.m. A single game will be played Sunday at 4. It is the final regular season weekend for the conference. Friday night Kennesaw State will honor eight seniors. Saturday is alumni day.

Lipscomb is 25-25 overall, 7-8 in the conference in fifth place. Kennesaw State is 25-25 overall, 6-9 in the conference in sixth place. North Florida is seventh at 5-10. Only six teams qualify for the tournament.

Lipscomb could finish as high as the No. 2 seed or not qualify for the tournament based on different scenarios around the conference. Kennesaw State could end the regular season as high as the No. 3 seed or could also be eliminated from postseason play.

In the other series Florida Gulf Coast is visiting Jacksonville. USC Upstate is playing at North Florida.

“We have talked about it a little bit, but it is not something we really have to talk about,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “The last week or two they have figured things out as a group. The girls know it is do or die time.

“It is important that we play as best as we can. We are going to start with one game and go from there. The ultimate thing is we have nothing to lose so we are going to lay it all on the line and give it everything we’ve got. We have to go and attack and see what happens.”

Ryman is stressing to each player the importance of everyone playing at the top of their games at all times. At this stage there is no room for excuses or mistakes.

“If you are at bat and lose focus, there is nothing Abby Fenichel can do from the bench to help you,” Ryman said. “The batter has to make the decision at the moment and go to the plate with a focus.

“There are times when we fall in and out of that. Those are little mental things we can control. We want to continue to see improvements and continue to take steps towards the postseason. We are through with finals. Now it is just about playing ball.”

Sarah Higgins, who had seen only a couple of pinch-hitting roles since an injury in game one April 9 at North Florida, was the starting designated player in Tuesday night’s 4-2 loss to UAB.  She is expected to start this weekend at Kennesaw and could also see some time at third base where she started the season.

“We are not completely sure yet what we are going to do,” Ryman said. “There is a chance she could play third, but Khayla Green has been doing a really great job there. It is up in the air as to which way we are going to go.”

Scouting Kennesaw State: The Owls are led in hitting by Taylor Denton with a .315 average.

Logan Viers, 10-8, leads the team with a 1.81 earned run average. Morgan Sikes, 11-6, has a 2.09 ERA.

More from Elmore: Brittany Elmore is ranked 33rd nationally with .60 stolen bases per game. She leads the A-Sun overall in hits (65) and is second in batting average (.385). In A-Sun games only she leads with a .472 batting average. She also leads in hits (25) and is tied for first in stolen bases (12).

Elmore has connected for hits in 40 of her 50 games. She has at least one hit in 14 of 15 A-Sun games

Her 31 stolen bases mark the third time in her career she has stolen more than 30.

Forever Young: Kelly Young is 14th in the nation in strikeouts per seven innings with 9.4 She is 18th in total strikeouts with 200.

She is first in the A-Sun overall in strikeouts and in batters struck out looking (50).

In A-Sun games only Young is first in strikeouts (84) and strikeouts per game (9.28).

She has nine games with 10 or more strikeouts.