FORT MYERS, Fla. – If you placed the names of each Atlantic Sun softball team and drew them one after another out of a hat it might be an easier way of predicting what is going to happen this week in the conference tournament.
It has truly been a mad, mad, mad world as Florida Gulf Coast, predicted to finish sixth in a preseason poll of conference coaches is the regular season champion with a 13-5 record and the No. 1 seed.
The Eagles have earned a first round bye along with USC Upstate, the No. 2 seed with an 11-6 record.
The rest of the field is bunched together. Stetson, the No. 3 seed, is 8-9. The remaining three teams, Kennesaw State at No. 4, Lipscomb at No. 5 and Jacksonville at No. 6, are all 8-10.
“We can’t go into this feeling comfortable,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “You have to give it everything you’ve got.
“You can’t take a pitch, a play off or an inning off. You can’t lose focus for a few minutes. You have to be all in. Our seniors are bringing that right now.”
This is the 10th straight appearance for the Lady Bisons in the conference tournament.
The double-elimination tournament is scheduled through Saturday with the winner earning the A-Sun’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Ryman has a strong belief her team can win the tournament, but she has stressed the need for a different attitude in postseason play.
“We have to play a solid seven innings,” Ryman said. “I think there have been a lot of games this year where we have played a really solid five or six innings and then it trickles away instead of staying on top of things or making it happen in the first inning.
“Our focus in practice this week has been to come out prepared every day with a fire inside of us. It is hard to flip that switch that on when it is game day. You have to practice and prepare that way. I think this group knows that right now.”
The tournament, day one: The Lady Bisons are facing a rematch with Kennesaw State at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The two teams met in Kennesaw this past weekend with the Owls taking two if three games, the first series win against Lipscomb since 2013.
“We have to have a better plan in the batter’s box when we see them again. I thought we did some great things, but we can’t see great things in spurts. We have to find ways to put it all together.
“We have to take the little things from this past weekend like how they pitched to us and what their hitters were doing and be better prepared. Who are their bunt threats? What are the tendencies of their hitters on certain pitches? Defensively, we have to know those things.”
All three games in the series were decided by one run.
Lipscomb has won six of its last nine meetings with Kennesaw State overall.
The Lady Bisons are 2-1 in tournament play against Kennesaw State. They beat the Owls 5-4 in 2013 in Nashville when Lipscomb was the No. 4 seed and Kennesaw State was No. 5.
In 2012 in Spartanburg, South Carolina Kennesaw State beat Lipscomb 9-2.
The first time the two met in the tournament was 2010 in DeLand, Florida with Lipscomb winning 8-0 on the way to the tournament title.
“If we go out and do what we are capable of doing and we go out and attack teams I don’t think anybody can beat us,” Ryman said. “I think we can see some really good things this week. But we have to go out there and do it.”
RPI: Lipscomb is 113th in this week’s NCAA RPI.
USC Upstate is 57th followed by Jacksonville (98), Florida Gulf Coast (101), Stetson (122) and Kennesaw State (124). North Florida, which failed to qualify for the tournament is at 147.