NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It was an unexpected pairing, but the Lipscomb Lady Bisons are not intimidated to be playing Arizona State in the first day of the Tuscaloosa Regional at Rhoads Softball Stadium.
“It is a surprise for us,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said as the teams were announced to an enthusiastic crowd in the Hall of Fame Room at Allen Arena Sunday night. “It is not completely surprising, but it is a little bit for the NCAA to send a team from Arizona all the way to Alabama.
“It will be a first time for us to compete against them. Cal is the only other Pac-12 team we have played against.”
The Lady Bisons and the Sun Devils will meet Friday at 3 p.m. in Tuscaloosa. Alabama (33-18), the Southeastern Conference Champion, is the host of the regional as the No. 8 seed nationally. The Crimson Tide will open against the region's No. 4 seed Alabama State (24-23).
Arizona State, the No. 2 seed regionally, is 33-18 and enters with a four-game winning streak including a season-ending sweep of Oregon.
“At this point we have played enough high quality, Top 10 teams over the years that we are not going into anything nervous and afraid,” Ryman said. “We know we are not expected to win this thing so it kind of gives you a looseness and a freedom to just play knowing there are really no expectations.”
Lipscomb, the ASUN Tournament and regular season champions, are 41-13-1 and will be the No. 2 seed in the region. The Lady Bisons have won 13 games in a row and 20 of their last 21.
“Arizona State is a very good team, but they were not at the top of the Pac-12 all year,” Ryman said. “They have a lot of postseason experience. They have competed in the World Series.
“Arizona State is definitely an opponent we can compete with. We look forward to it.”
This is the second time Lipscomb has played in the Tuscaloosa Regional. They advanced to the finals against Alabama in 2010.
Lipscomb will be playing in its third NCAA Regionals, having played at Tennessee and advancing to the championship game against the Volunteers in 2014.
“We have gotten good draws in the past,” Ryman said. “We play loose and free.
“We know we can compete. If we are just okay with being challenged and up for that challenge, we can go in and control what we can control. We try to keep it simple and play our game.”
The regional is played in a double elimination format. Lipscomb's second game will take place on Saturday, with details to be determined after Friday's matchups. The regional championship will take place on Sunday.