FORT MYERS, Fla. – As if enough water hadn’t fallen on the field at the FGCU Softball Complex Lipscomb’s softball players gave coach Kristin Ryman a ceremonial water shower.
A soaked Ryman made sure she hugged everyone who was involved. There was a lot of hugging and laughing and general jubilation on the field as the Lady Bisons celebrated their 8-2 win over No. 6-seeded North Florida in the ASUN Tournament Championship Saturday afternoon.
It is the second ASUN Tournament title for Ryman who has guided her team to a 41-13-1 record and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Ryman and her staff knew from the start of the season this could be a special team. They have come on strong in the second half of the regular season and the postseason winning 13 in a row and 20 of their last 21.
“It is awesome to think about the journey for this year,” Ryman said. “This is what you set out to do every year.
“We have seen this team gel more and more as we have gone through the year. It is unreal how we finished the season. I am so proud of these girls and what they mean to each other and what they mean to us.”
The team concept is something stressed by Ryman, associate head coach Megan Rhodes Smith and assistant coach J.J. Dillingham. This team, led by a strong senior class, has not only listened to what has been said, but has executed the plan.
“It is fun to see what these girls are capable of doing,” Ryman said. “When you actually put it into play it is such a cool feeling to see them accomplish something that means so much to all of us. I am so happy this group of girls and the coaches get to experience this.”
Winning both the regular season and tournament titles is a difficult feat for any team. The Lady Bisons last won both in 2010. It is also the last time they won the ASUN Tournament title.
“It is hard to win the regular season and it is hard or harder to win the tournament,” Ryman said. “We have been here nearly every year, and this is our second tournament championship. It is that hard.
“A lot of people don’t realize how difficult the ASUN is as a league. UNF was the sixth seed and they came in and gave us everything they wanted to until the last inning. They played their hearts out. They had an incredible tournament. Hats off to them.”
Mandy Jordan, 18-7, gave up four hits and did not walk a batter. She struck out two.
“It is really nice that this is not our last game,” Jordan said. “I couldn’t be prouder of my teammates. We have all worked so hard. I am so happy.
“Close games are fine when you win them. But having the insurance runs against UNF really helped me.”
North Florida used four pitchers with starter Sydney Matzko, 15-12, taking the loss.
Peyton Ward was one hit away from the cycle with a triple, double and a single as the Lady Bisons combined for 12 hits.
“Peyton is such an outstanding athlete,” Ryman said. “She is capable of those moments in any given game. She sparked our offense in this game, and she came up with some big plays on defense.”
Jordan was named the Most Valuable Player in the tournament with two victories, including a 1-0 win over North Alabama in 12 innings. Joining her on the All-Tournament Team were Sarah Higgins, Jordan Fortel and Graysen Gladden.
“Mandy is in a place where she was the best route to go to really attack this game,” Ryman said. “She has had an incredible finish.
“Pitching in this heat is incredibly difficult. We call her our `bulldog’ for a reason. She gave us everything she has got.”
Ryman also wanted to hear pitcher Megan Gray’s name called out in recognition of her 3-0 win Friday night over Liberty to move Lipscomb into the championship game.
“All of our players on the All-Tournament team had outstanding weeks,” Ryman said. “But I would have liked to see Megan in there.
“The importance of that game she threw, getting a win against the No. 2 seed, was as valuable as any game in the tournament for us. I think she was very deserving. It helped get us to the championship.”
- The 41 wins tied for the second-highest total for a Lipscomb softball team in the Division I era. The 13-14 team also won 41.
- Gladden extended her hitting streak to 10 games.
- Ward and Fortel, with three hits each, have 13 multi-hit games, tying with Gladden for first.
- DeVault hit her 10th home run of the season.
- DeVault also walked three times in the game and has reached base safely in 24 straight games. Gladden has a 10-game streak.
- Jenna Pealor had two hits and one RBI.
- It is the fifth time Fortel has recorded three hits in a game and the third time for Ward.
- It was the third time a No. 6 seed had made the conference finals.
The NCAA Selection Show watch party will be on Sunday at 8 p.m. The doors will open at 7:30 in Allen Arena’s Hall of Fame Room. Drinks and snacks will be provided and all fans are invited to come see the Lady Bisons’ regional placement.