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February 06, 20151234567RHE
Missouri-Kansas City1000000122
Win: SANDERS (1-0) 7.021107
Loss: Kelley (0-1) 3.265333
Parker (UMKC) 211000
Kelley (UMKC) 301100
ELMORE (LIP) 423000
NEELY (LIP) 303100
February 07, 201512345RHE
Indiana State00100150
Win: SANDERS (2-0) 5.051134
Loss: Alvarez (0-2) 3.074411
Brown (INS) 211010
Holland (INS) 101000
Crissman (INS) 101020
Stone (INS) 301100
Malchow (INS) 201000
NEELY (LIP) 312000
AGUIRRE (LIP) 312201
Trio of long balls helps lift softball in season opener
Friday, February 6, 2015
By Mark McGee
Trio of long balls helps lift softball in season opener

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tanner Sanders made her third season opening start in her career for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons and the result was the same as the previous two – a victory.

Sanders, a junior right-hander, gave up one run in the first inning, but shut down Missouri-Kansas City the rest of the way for a 7-1 win Friday night at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium in the first round of the Music City Classic.

“We want to start stronger, obviously, and Tanner knows that,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “We loved the resiliency she had to fight right back. The way she finished the game was just as important, if not more, than the way she started.”

As a freshman Sanders started the season opener on the road against Iowa and won 4-0. In 2014 she was in the circle to start the season against Miami (Ohio) in an 11-7 decision.

Sanders struck out seven and did not walk a batter. She retired 15 straight batters before giving up her second hit of the game, a single, in the sixth.

“The fact that she kept getting stronger throughout the game says a lot about her as a pitcher,” Ryman said. “She is an upperclassman now and she is starting to turn the corner with one hit through the last six innings.”

The Lady Bisons flexed their power in the game. In the fourth inning freshman designated player Abby Fenichel slammed a three-run homer over the center field fence. Senior left fielder Brianne Welch followed with a solo shot to left center.

In the fifth Fenichel struck again with a solo homer to left center for her fourth RBI of the game.

“We have talked about having a lot of girls in the lineup with power and how that is going to translate into home runs,” Ryman said. “We are still a little bit of an unknown.

“We see them in practice but we are not bombs away every day. It was a little bit hard to tell if we were going to hit some. We have faith that we can and that we have multiple girls who can hit them.”

The Lady Bisons finished the game with nine hits. Three of them were by Fenichel, the No. 8 hitter, and Welch at No. 9. At the top of the order lead-off hitter Brittany Elmore, a junior centerfielder, and senior shortstop Paige Neely, added three hits apiece.

Elmore had three singles. Neely connected for a double in the first inning and added an RBI-double to left center in the fifth inning.

“One through nine we are going to be strong,” Ryman said. “Our No. 8 and No. 9 batters hit three home runs. I think that says a lot about our lineup.”

FENICHEL IS JUST FINE: Often the first game on a new team is one filled with jitters, but that was not the case for Fenichel. Her two home runs in her first collegiate game is a record debut performance for a Lady Bisons player.

“I am really proud of Abby,” Ryman said. “She could be hitting No. 5 or No. 6 for us and she did some in the fall.

“There have been moments in practice lately where she hasn’t felt comfortable at the plate. And she is at her best when she just reacts and doesn’t think too much. That is exactly what she did in this game. You knew right off the bat with both swings that the ball was out of the park.”

300 IS NEXT: The next win for Ryman, in her 10th season as head coach of the Lady Bisons, will be her 300th.

MAKING PURPLE AND GOLD DEBUTS: Also making their first appearances for  the Lady Bisons were freshman first baseman Caitlin Plocheck, junior college transfer second baseman Baylee Williams and senior transfer catcher Laura Dukes.

Junior pitcher Kelly Young, a transfer from Arkansas, is expected to make her Lipscomb debut Saturday.

NEW LOOK INFIELD: Two infielders return from last season, but they were in new spots. Neely has moved from third base to shortstop and sophomore Mimi Cartwright has shifted from second base to third.

Williams started at second and Plocheck started at first.

NEXT UP: The Lady Bisons continue play in the Music City Classic Saturday facing IUPUI at 2 p.m. and Indiana State at 4:30.

IUPUI beat Belmont 3-2 in eight innings Friday. Belmont is co-hosting the Music City Classic. Indiana State lost 8-2 to Georgetown at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium.