NASHVILLE, Tenn. – At this stage of the softball season it is all about focus.
After two days of practice this week Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman is confident her Lady Bisons are focused on the task at hand as they open play Wednesday in the ASUN Conference Tournament at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium.
“There was a lot of focus,” Ryman said Tuesday. “It was a really good practice and we need that momentum and the extra focus. The teams that show up with the best focus and execute the best are going to win.
“I think we have a little bit of renewed life. I think there is a little bit of an edge about us right now. We are kind of in that underdog role again.”
The Lady Bisons, 35-18, will face Florida Gulf Coast, 26-28, in game two at 5:30 p.m. Lipscomb is the No. 5 seed. The Eagles are the No. 4 seed. The game will be televised live on ESPN3.
“Confidence comes from your preparation and I think we are really prepared right now,” Ryman said. “I think the girls feel it.”
The Lady Bisons were allowed 55 minutes of practice time on Tuesday, the same time allotted to each team. Such a short session requires a different approach.
“You have to either not plan very much or move at a faster pace,” Ryman said. “We wanted to find a way to hit and work on defense.
“We started with defense and we executed really well at a high pace which was good to see. We transitioned into hitting and did a good job there too.”
It will be five days since the two teams closed out the regular season with Florida Gulf Coast winning the series 2-1. The Eagles won the opener 3-2 in nine innings. Lipscomb won game two 10-2. Florida Gulf Coast closed out the series and the regular season with a 4-0 win.
“If we would have felt like we played our best down there and just lost it could maybe be a bad thing to play Florida Gulf Coast again so soon,” Ryman said. “But we didn’t play our best and we all know that.
“We want a little revenge. We have something to prove. Getting the first win is always important. There is such a high level to the teams in the tournament with a lot of good hitting and a lot of good pitching and great defense.”
ASUN Tourney history: This is the 11th consecutive year the Lady Bisons have qualified for the tournament and the 12th overall.
They have advanced to the championship game four times, the last in 2015 with a loss to USC Upstate in the final game.
The only time the Lady Bisons have won the title is 2010.
This is the second year in a row the Lady Bisons have been the No. 5 seed. Last year they were 0-2 with a 3-0 loss to Kennesaw State and a 5-0 loss to Stetson in Fort Myers, Florida.
This is the first time Lipscomb has faced Florida Gulf Coast in the ASUN Tournament.
RPIs: USC Upstate is ranked 41st followed by Kennesaw State (46) and Lipscomb (50).
North Florida is rated 81st and Florida Gulf Coast is 86th.
Jacksonville is 120th.
NCAA stats: Mandy Jordan is 10th in the NCAA in strikeouts with a career-high 246. She is 21st in victories (22), 27th in shutouts (7), 32nd in earned run average (1.48) and 33rd in strikeouts per innings pitched (8.1).
Caitlin Plocheck is 27th in doubles with 16. She is 50th in doubles per game with .30. She is 53rd in total bases with 105.
As a team the Lady Bisons are 22nd in fielding percentage (.974), 32nd in ERA (2.13) and 44th in won-loss percentage (.660).
ASUN stats: Overall in the ASUN Jordan leads in strikeouts, batters struck out looking (61) and innings pitched (212.1). She is second in ERA, second in wins and third in opposing batting average (.201).
McCarley Thomas is fourth in opposing batting average (.225), tied for fifth in batters struck out looking, sixth in strike outs (117), eighth in ERA (2.43), eighth in games started (21), tied for eighth in wins (12) and ninth in innings pitched (123.2).
Plocheck is second in home runs (9), second in total bases, tied for second in doubles and fifth in slugging percentage (.583).
Kasey Gibson is tied for fifth in triples with three.
Khayla Green is third with 30 walks. Sarah Higgins is tied for fourth with 27 and Hannah DeVault is seventh with 25 free passes.
Abby Fenichel has been hit by a pitch 11 times, tying her for second overall.
Peyton Ward is tied for first in sac bunts with nine and is ninth in stolen bases with 20.