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M.L. Williams is a spark for the Bisons as they head to Stetson

Thursday, April 22, 2010

M.L. Williams has eight hits in his last four games and nine in his last six. He is batting .263 with eight doubles, one triple and one home run.

He bats ninth for the Lipscomb Bisons.

“We are fortunate that we have a lead-off hitter batting ninth,” Bisons coach Jeff Forehand said. “Lee Wilson has moved to the No. 2 hole and that gives us the luxury of having M.L., normally a No. 1 or No. 2 hitter , batting in the nine-hole.”

Williams has multiple hits in 12 games, with three hits in two of his last four games. He has a four-game hitting streak. Ryan Wilkins has a seven-game streak, his longest of the season. Cory Hale takes a six-game hit string into the Stetson series.

“M.L. is playing a solid left field,” Forehand said. “There are a lot of things about M.L. that people don’t see. He has gotten a lot of sacrifice bunts down.

“He has done a lot of really good things at the bottom of the order to turn it back over to the top. I feel really good about him. If he had to bat first or second he could.”

T.J. Hoelzer is expected to get some time at shortstop, marking his first playing time in a weekend series since the Bisons played Belmont March 20 and 21. He is being reward for his four hits Wednesday night against UT-Martin.

“If they throw a right-handed pitcher he will go,” Forehand said. “If they throw a left-handed pitcher we will go back to either Kyle Henry or Andrew Nickerson on defense.

“T.J. deserves another chance. He is a true shortstop. Hopefully, he can keep doing it.”

The Bisons, 14-25, 5-7 in the A-Sun, are back on the road for three games this weekend at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla. Game times are 5:30 p.m. Friday night, 1 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. It has been chosen by the A-Sun as the "Series of the Week".

The Bisons won their last outing, a 7-4 decision against Tennessee-Martin from the Ohio Valley Conference. The Bisons are 2-11 on the road.

Stetson’s Hatters are 20-19, 8-4 in the A-Sun. Belmont won two out of three games against Stetson last weekend. The Hatters head into the series at Melching Field with a three-game losing streak.

Stetson is batting .316 as a team. Opponents are batting .319 against them. The Bisons are batting .296 as a team. The Bisons opponents are batting .318.

“Just about all teams are the same,” Forehand said. “Everybody has a few guys who can hit, a few guys who can run and a few guys who can hit with power. Everyone has a good No. 1 starter.

“I think we match up pretty good with Stetson. They have a guy who has been pitching well for them on Friday. And on Saturday and Sunday they have had to outscore some people.”

Forehand will send Josh Smith, 7-1, 3.69 earned run average, to the mound in the first game. Sophomore right-hander Davey Hackett, 3-3, 5.73, will pitch game two. Forehand is undecided on his starter for game three.

Smith is third in NCAA Division I in strikeouts with 80. He is eighth in wins with seven.

Stetson’s No. 1 pitcher is Jacob deGrom. He has a 3-1 record with a 3.61 ERA.

“Jacob deGrom played third base two years ago. Last year he played shortstop. This year he is their No. 1 pitcher.

“He is just a baseball player. He is athletic. He is a hard thrower. Hopefully, Josh can match up with him and we can get off to another good start. Hopefully, we can continue to swing the bats and score some runs.”

Forehand likes the fact that the series will be played over a three-day period.

“It is often difficult on Saturday having to play two games,” Forehand said. “Whether you win or lose on Friday the series rides on one day. Last weekend, this weekend and next weekend are all three-game series.”

Starting with this series the Bisons have 15 more A-Sun games left to play as they fight to put themselves in a position for one of the six spots in the Atlantic Sun Tournament. The Bisons always have that as a goal, but this year it means even more since the tournament is going to held at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium on the Lipscomb campus.

“A lot of things can change,” Forehand said. “Some teams only have nine games left. A good weekend by us and a bad weekend by somebody else could shift things.

“It looks like in the standings we are down at the bottom. With some consistency on the weekends we will be right back in the middle of the race.”

Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.