NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Panthers, Seawolves and Crusaders, oh my.
The Eastern Illinois Panthers, the Stony Brook Seawolves and the Valparaiso Crusaders are all headed to the Lipscomb campus this weekend for the Purple and Gold Challenge at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The Lady Bisons softball team is happy to welcome them to their home field. Lipscomb played its first game at home Wednesday night, a 7-5 win over Wright State.
“We love hosting our tournament,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “The nature of college softball is teams start their seasons playing in tournaments.
“It is fun for our girls to play at home, especially after three weeks, basically, on the road. This is a nice break from traveling. We have a great facility and we tend to draw a good number of fans. Games at Draper get really exciting.”
Two games are scheduled for Friday. Stony Brook (1-4), from the American East Conference, faces Valparaiso (4-0) from the Horizon League at 1 p.m. Lipscomb (11-5) will challenge Eastern Illinois (8-6), from the Ohio Valley Conference at 3:30 p.m.
Four games are scheduled for Saturday and two on Sunday.
“Valpo won its conference tournament last year,” Ryman said. “They are capable of getting on a roll. They are going to compete.
“We saw Eastern Illinois last year. They have played North Florida four times this season and split 2-2. North Florida is a team that has started decently well. They have some good wins. They can find ways to win games.”
Stony Brook is only in its second weekend of competition. The Seawolves are making the longest trip heading south from New York.
“They have gotten off to a little bit of a slow start,” Ryman said. “But they consistently compete well in the conference.
“They have been in regionals before and done well. Like us in the second week of the season they are probably still trying to figure out who is pitching and when and where players are hitting.”
Lipscomb heads into the tournament with a three-game winning streak.
“The key for us is to stay loose, keep playing like we have something to prove and execute,” Ryman said. “If everybody shows up and does their jobs good things are going to happen for us.
“When we start reaching the point where we are a consistent team, especially hitting, regardless of who the other team is, we are going to get on an even bigger roll.”
The series: Lipscomb is 1-1 against Eastern Illinois overall. This will be the first time Lipscomb has faced Valparaiso and Stony Brook.
A blast of youth: When Abby White hit her home run against Wright State she became the fourth freshman to hit a home run this season. Megan Gray, a pitcher, is the only freshman without a home run.
NCAA rankings: Caitlin Plocheck is second nationally in doubles (8), 19th in hits (23), 22nd in total bases (37) and 23rd in doubles per game. (.50)
Kasey Gibson is second in triples with three.
Mandy Jordan is ninth in shutouts (three), 12th in wins with seven and 17th in strikeouts with 60.
ASUN rankings: Plocheck is first in doubles, second in hits, second in total bases, fourth in slugging percentage (.685) and fifth in batting average (.426).
Gibson is tied for first in triples and tied for sixth in hits with 19.
Abby Fenichel has been hit by pitches six times, tops in the conference.
Peyton Ward is fifth in stolen bases with nine.
Jordan is tied for second in wins, third in innings pitched (59.1), third in strikeouts, tied for third in strikeouts looking (12), fifth in ERA (1.42) and ninth in opposing batting average (.231).
McCarley Thomas is fifth in strikeouts (37), seventh in opposing batting average (.229), seventh in batters struck out looking (10) and 10th in innings pitched (33.1).