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March 23, 20161234567RHE
Win: YOUNG (7-4) 7.0433210
Loss: JOHNSON (2-3) 1.232222
ROUSE (BEL) 311301
MEADOWS (BEL) 301000
LONG (BEL) 301000
GIBSON (LIP) 312010
Time for "Battle of the Boulevard" softball style
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
By Mark McGee
Time for

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It’s the “Battle of the Boulevard” softball style.

Wednesday afternoon at 5 Belmont makes the short trip to Lipscomb for a single game at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium.

In addition to keeping the rivalry alive between the two programs the game is also going to provide an opportunity for fans to help those who are in need. Instead of an admission charge, fans are asked to bring a minimum of five cans of food. If a fan is not able to bring cans, a donation of $5 will be accepted at the gate with all the food and funds collected being given to Second Harvest Food Bank.

“We are trying to get both teams and fans involved to see how many cans we can raise,” Lipscomb softball coach Kristin Ryman said. “It will be a neat opportunity to take a local rivalry game and put a focus on helping others as opposed to having people pay the cost of admission.”

The softball team has been challenged to bring a minimum of 75 cans.

On the field the Lady Bisons, 15-14, will be trying to bounce back from a 6-3 Atlantic Sun Conference loss to USC Upstate Sunday afternoon.

“The nice thing about single games midweek is we can have all hands on deck,” Ryman said. “Pitching-wise we can use any of our three main pitchers. We could get a little deeper into the pitching staff potentially.

“McCarley Thomas is back and ready to go. We would like to find her some playing time. She wasn’t ready to go early in the season.”

Ryman sees the game as another opportunity to continue to improve.

“Ultimately, the goal is to continue to build off the growth we have seen,” Ryman said. “We have to continue to get people comfortable with the newer lineup.”

Scouting Belmont: The Bruins, from the Ohio Valley Conference, are 7-20 and have lost their last four games. They are 0-3 on the road.

Kayla Wells is the hitting leader with a .326 average. Jordan Spicer is batting .324. Jessica Wilson has a .314 average.

Belmont has used five pitchers this season. Ashley Johnson, 2-2, is the ERA leader at 3.10. Shelby Willard leads in wins with a 3-9 record. She has a 5.44 ERA.

Lipscomb leads the overall series 29-9. The two teams have not met since 2014. Last year’s game was canceled.

RPI: The first NCAA Division I RPI of the season is out this week and the Lady Bisons are ranked 90th. USC Upstate is 50th. The next A-Sun team is Kennesaw State at 102.

National rankings: Kasey Gibson is ranked 18th in NCAA Division I in sacrifices with an average of .31 per game.

Sarah Higgins is 28th in home runs with eight. She is 56th with a .770 slugging percentage.

Abby Fenichel and Caitlin Plocheck are tied for 59th in sac flies. Fenichel is 31st in the nation averaging being hit by a pitch .31 times per game.

As a team Lipscomb is 54th in stolen bases with an average of 1.52 per game.

The pitching staff is 48th with a combined 2.56 earned run average.

Tanner Sanders is 61st with a 1.77 ERA.

Kelly Young is 29th with an average of 8.7 strikeouts per seven innings pitched.

Conference rankings:  Higgins leads the conference overall in hitting with a .391 average. Brittany Elmore is ranked 13th with a .340 average.

Higgins is tied for first with a .459 on-base percentage. She is second in slugging percentage. Her 67 total bases are third best in the conference. She is also third in home runs.

“From an average standpoint the fact she has been so steady is a pleasant surprise,” Ryman said. “I won’t say it is a huge surprise, but for a freshman to be leading your team and the conference in hitting at this point in the season it is a nice surprise.

“She is seeing the ball well. She is learning with every at bat. She is very level-headed. She is continuing to excel.”

Fenichel is tied for first having been hit nine times by opposing pitchers.

Gibson is first in sac bunts with nine.

Sanders is second in strikeouts with 91. She is third in ERA, opposing batting average (.218), and innings pitched (103). She is tied for fourth in games started with 13.

Sanders leads in strikeouts looking with 29.  Young is close behind in second with 27. Young is third in strikeouts with 85.

Next up: The Lady Bisons return to conference action Friday and Saturday when Jacksonville visits. Friday night a doubleheader begins at 4. The three-game series closes out Saturday at 1 p.m.