TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – It was reminiscent of Moonlight Graham in “Field of Dreams”.
An emergency forced him to cross the third base line. He knew when he left the field of play, he knew he would never be able to play baseball again.
In the sixth inning Saturday night Mandy Jordan stopped at the third base line and paused. She gave words of encouragement to Chloe Yeager who was replacing her.
But you could also sense the hesitation of her knowing this was the last time she was going to make the walk from the circle to the dugout wearing a Lipscomb uniform.
“Yes, I realized it was going to be my last time,” Jordan said through tears. “I couldn’t look up. It was very, very emotional. When I saw Peck (Coach Kristin Ryman) walking over to the umpires to make the pitching change I turned around and the tears started coming.”
Assistant head coach Megan Rhodes Smith called it a “changing of the guard” as Jordan handed the ball to Yeager, a junior.
“It was almost poetic,” Smith said. “I love Mandy got the standing ovation. We didn’t want it to end that way for her. Mandy has left her mark.”
There were also standing ovations for some of the other seniors who took their final collegiate at bats - Sarah Higgins, Jenna Pealor, Khayla Green and Destinee Brewer.
The Lady Bisons didn’t go quietly into the end of the season. They had bases loaded with two outs in the sixth, but those runners would remain on base.
“We have never given up this season,” Ryman said. “We are always looking for a way to win.”
There were hugs, tears and even some laughter. It is a scene Ryman has been part of before as a coach and a player.
“It isa gut-wrenching feeling to know it is the last time you are going to be out there,” Ryman said. “Mandy is such a great teammate. She has faith in all our pitchers. Mandy gave us everything she could.”
It was a fateful sixth. Having entered the inning tied 1-1 with Arizona State the Lady Bisons would give up nine runs. The game was called after six innings due to the run rule, a 10-1 decision.
“It was such a well-played game,” Ryman said. “The last thing you want to do is be tied 1-1 in the sixth and all of a sudden look up and it’s the run rule.”
Ironically, Lipscomb had beaten Alabama State 14-0 in five innings earlier in the day at Rhoads Stadium to stay alive in the Tuscaloosa Regional.
The loss to the Sun Devils was the second for Lipscomb in the regional.
This was the third NCAA Regional for Lipscomb and the first time they have not advanced to the finals. Arizona State and Alabama will play Sunday for the right to advance to a Super Regional.
The Lady Bisons finished the season 42-15-1. Arizona State is 35-19
Jordan. Yeager and Megan Gray all pitched against the Sun Devils. Jordan finished the season with an 18-9 record.
Samantha Mejia, 16-9, went the distance for Arizona State.
“Jenna Pealor said it best,” Ryman said. “She said everything that went on here this weekend was icing on the cake.
“From the beginning of each year it is always our goal to win the ASUN Conference and go to a regional. They are only the second team to do that (the 2014 team was an at-large bid). That speaks volumes for this group and how much they truly invested in this team.”
- The 42 wins mark the second highest win total of Ryman’s career. The 2014 team won 41 and the 2010 team won 50.
- Left fielder Amy Vetula connected for two hits against Arizona State and made one of the most outstanding plays of the regional with a diving catch of a fly ball.
- It was fitting for Green, the all-time walks leader for Lipscomb, was issued a base on balls in her last at bat.
- Pitcher Chloe Rogers has a unique legacy. She played in the NCAA Tournament three times for the Lipscomb volleyball team during her career. She can add an NCAA softball appearance to her resume.
- The Steele family, whose son Hudson was honored each inning by Jordan, visited Rhoads Stadium Friday night to watch Lipscomb play.
- Megan Gray combined with Katie Turner for her sixth shutout of the season.
- The 14 runs against Alabama State fell one short of the season high of 15 scored against Buffalo March 8. It was the largest margin of victory for the Lady Bisons this seasoh.
- The five runs batted in by Pealor, four on a gradn slam, in the Alabama State game were a season high for her and tied her for the team lead with Jordan Fortel and Hannah DeVault.
- Pealor finished with 10 multiple-RBI games.
- Ward, with two hits against Alabama State, finished with a team-high 14 multiple-hit games. Green, who connected for three hits in the game, finished with 11.