NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It was a great day for lovers of cliffhangers.
Two times Saturday the Lipscomb Lady Bisons beat Florida Gulf Coast in Atlantic Sun Conference action. In both victories the Lady Bisons did not clinch until the final inning at Smith Stadium at Draper Diamond.
In game one there were two outs when pinch-hitter Haley Elliott hit a two-run homer, the first to bounce off of the new scoreboard in right center field, with two outs in the seventh to seal a 6-4 decision.
Game two went to extra innings. After Mimi Cartwright opened with a double in the eighth to right center she moved to third on a sac bunt by Rena’ Cothron. Elliott, again pinch-hitting, was intentionally walked. With one out Brianne Welch stepped to the plate and connected for a single through the left side to score Jordan Abell, pinch-running for Mimi, for the 5-4 win.
“We talk about every A-Sun game being a dogfight,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “It couldn’t have been truer today with a good Gulf Coast team coming in here.
“We knew we were going to be challenged. We knew that they hit well. They are a well-coached team and we knew they were going to make adjustments throughout the game. For us to keep battling all the way through the way that we did and get some key clutch hits late in the game when we needed them was just huge.”
The Lady Bisons, winners of their last six games, are 19-3, 4-1 in the A-Sun. FGCU drops to 12-10-1, 0-2 in conference play. The two teams close out the series Sunday at 1 p.m.
No break time
In game one FGCU opened with a 1-0 lead in the first. The Lady Bisons scored two in the fifth, but FGCU answered with two more in the sixth to tie the game at 3-3. The Lady Bisons took the lead again with one in the sixth, but FGCU answered with another run in the seventh setting the stage for Elliott’s walk-off blast.
Game two was much the same. This time around the Lady Bisons scored first with one run in the third. FGCU came back with two in the fourth. The Lady Bisons tied the game with one run in the bottom of the fourth. But FGCU responded with a pair of runs in the fifth. The Lady Bisons tied the game with two runs in the seventh.
“There aren’t any A-Sun games where you can take a break,” Ryman said. “You can’t mentally or physically take a break. You have to be ready on every play.
“You have to be focused and ready in the field and expect every ball is going to come to you. At the plate you have to make the most of your at bats.”
The Lady Bisons showed some power in both games with nine hits in game one and 12 in the nightcap. In addition to Elliott, Kelsey Cartwright added a home run. Mimi Cartwright added a double. Paige Neely, Kristen Sturdivant and Mimi Cartwright all had doubles in game two.
Brittany Elmore and Mimi Cartwright each had two hits in game one. Neely tied for the game-high in hits in the second game with three. Elmore and Gracey Aguirre each had two.
One thing Ryman has enjoyed this season is no one can predict who is going to be the big hitter in a game.
“We have had it all year from different people,” Ryman said. “In game one we get a home run from Kelsey who has been a little up and down so far this year by her standards. Then Haley comes in off of the bench and gets the big hit.
“Every time you turn around somebody different is doing it. Kristen Sturdivant gets the big hit (a two-RBI double up the middle in the seventh) to tie it and then Brianne gets the big hit to win it. We can’t say enough about what we are doing top to bottom in our lineup.”
While Ryman likes to see the hits distributed throughout the lineup, she has also stressed to certain hitters known for their ability to hit with power to make sure they get their money’s worth each time they are at the plate.
“We are not swinging just to dink a single through,” Ryman said. “We will take that. In situations like tonight when we needed base runners so we could chip away that is great.
“But especially with our key hitters in the middle of the order, our power kids, that is not what we are looking for. If they get a single great, but we want them to try to get more.”
Pitching to the limit
Left-hander Ashley Anderson, 8-0, remained unbeaten after scattering five hits, walking two and striking out five in game one. Friday night she also became engaged for a double-win weekend.
“Ashley didn’t have quite as sharp of a start,” Ryman said. “As soon as that first inning ended she made a decision she needed to throw more so she went back out to the bullpen. After that I thought she looked a lot sharper.
“We have to credit Gulf Coast for making some adjustments. Ashley has done a good job all year. I thought they made some key adjustments against her and gave themselves a shot to win. That is nothing against Ashley. She got better as the game went on.”
Heather Parker, 4-2, went the distance in game two. She allowed 10 hits, walked three and struck out seven.
“Heather just fought and fought and gave us a chance,” Ryman said. “It was big for us to get that full seven innings out of Heather. She has had some moments this year when she hasn’t made it through a full seven innings.
“It was a key for her that she kept fighting through it tonight. There were a couple of innings when things weren’t quite going her way and then she would come back the next inning and get a couple of strikeouts. I loved the resilience we saw out of her.”