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Lady Bisons ready for No. 24 Spartans in Music City
#24 USC Upstate (35-3, 16-1 A-Sun)
at
Lipscomb (22-19, 9-7 A-Sun)
4/13/2013 | Nashville, Tenn. | Attendance: 177
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USC Upstate0110020480
Lipscomb0000010171
PitchingIPHRERBBSO
Win: ALEXANDER (15-2) 5.061112
Loss: PARKER (9-10) 7.084343
BattingABRHRBIBBHR
LANDERS (UPST) 323101
BELL (LIP) 302000

Friday, April 12, 2013
by Mark McGee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Christmas presents had long been unwrapped, but when Paige Neely put on a Lipscomb softball uniform in January for the first time she became a gift to the program that keeps on giving.

Heading into this weekend’s pivotal Atlantic Sun Conference series with USC Upstate at Draper Diamond Neely will be counted on to continue to produce from her spot as the No. 3 batter.

The Lady Bisons, 22-18, 9-6, have won eight of their last six 10 games, including their last six conference games. The No. 24-ranked Spartans lead the conference with a 15-1 record, 34-3 overall. They have won their last 13 games and also have not been beaten in their last 15 A-Sun games.

Neely, who transferred from Austin Peay State after the 2012 fall semester, is batting .295, third best on the team. In conference games she is tied for sixth with a .412 average.

She is second on the team in hits with 39 and is tied for fifth in A-Sun games only with 21 hits.

Neely has been productive with her hitting. She paces the Purple and Gold in runs batted in with 23 and is second in runs scored with 25.

“Paige has adapted to the No. 3 spot and taken it on as her own,” LU coach Kristin Ryman said. “She loves to hit. She holds herself to a very high standard hitting wise.

“She just wants to drive in runs. She wants to find ways to get on base. She keeps it simple. She doesn’t think about where she is in the lineup and what that means. The simple approach sometimes is the best approach.”

Ryman has been most impressed with the way Neely became a part of the team so quickly after arriving on campus.

“She has had a good season all the way around,” Ryman said. “She had to come in here and try to find her way. There are challenges off the field with a new school.

“But on the field you are a new player stepping into a team that you haven’t been around. She did a good job of coming in and playing the game and letting the results make a statement.”

Neely has faced a couple of major changes on the field. She moved from the infield to center field to start the season. After 16 games she switched to third base.

“She has been such a big part of what we have done offensively and defensively,” Ryman said. “She is such a great athlete.

“Sometimes moving players around on the field can be difficult for them. That can sometimes weigh mentally on a player. Early on she was practicing in center field, second base and at shortstop. She has taken the approach that wherever she is put on the field she is going to adapt.”

Ryman stresses that it is very rare to have a player that is as well-rounded as Neely.

“She is a competitor,” Ryman said. “She just wants to be out there and help out however she can.

“She can hit for average. She can hit for power. She can run. She has a cannon for an arm. She is very versatile defensively. She is as close to a five-tool player as we have on this team.”

The Lady Bisons have won six of the last seven games against USC Upstate, but Ryman knows this will be the biggest challenge of the season. The Spartans lead the nation with a .358 batting average and are fourth with a .980 fielding percentage.

“They do so many things well,” Ryman said. “Every player and every team has weaknesses. It has been a challenge for opponents this season to find ways to beat them because they hit well, they pitch well and have one of the best defensive teams in the country.”

Ryman knows the Lady Bisons will not be able to make many mistakes if they are going to win.

“We are playing pretty well right now,” Ryman said. “We have to play aggressive and play smart.

“We have to take care of ourselves first. We have to excel and do the things we do best. If we play error-free ball, pitch well and do our part offensively we can find some of those weaknesses.”