NASHVILLE, Tenn. – If it is an extra inning game then the Lipscomb Lady Bisons are on the winning side.
Thursday afternoon the Lady Bisons softball team, the No. 4 seed, used a two-run eighth inning for a 3-1 win over the top-seeded North Florida Ospreys in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship at Draper Diamond on the Lipscomb campus.
“We stuck to our game plan,” LU coach Kristin Ryman said. “We didn’t get timid and back off. It is good to see at this point in the season that we are going to keep coming right back at you.”
It was the second time the Purple and Gold has faced extra innings in the tournament. Wednesday night they used a walk-off home run by freshman catcher Mickey Bell to beat Kennesaw State, the No. 5 seed, 5-4 in the eighth.
With the win, the Lady Bisons advance to the semifinals Friday against No. 2 seeded USC Upstate. Game time is 12:30 p.m. However, fans are urged to keep a close watch on Lipscombsports.com and Twitter (@LU_Softball) in case rainy weather forces a time change.
Ryman has spent a great deal of time talking with her players about composure. They have needed all they can muster with the extra inning games.
“Obviously, you want to get out of a game in seven,” Ryman said. “But right now we are never out of a game. If are up we need to finish, but if we are down we are not out of it.”
North Florida struck first with a run in the first. LU’s Gracey Aguirre tied the game with a solo home run to left center.
In the eighth Heather Montgomery opened the inning with a double to left field and advanced to third on a throwing error on failed pickoff move by the catcher. Brittany Elmore singled down the left field line to score Montgomery with what proved to be the winning run. Elmore scored on a double to left center by Paige Neely.
“What is neat about Brittany is that even as a freshman she does not get nervous in pressure situations,” Ryman said. “She almost craves them.
“She loves it. She wants to prove what she can do. She continues to do it over and over again.”
Elmore, as the lead-off hitter, has faced challenges all season. She was confident that if she didn’t produce a hit that her teammates would pick her up.
“I knew when I came up to the plate that even if I didn’t get a hit that my team was behind me,” Elmore said. “I had a lot of confidence in us winning this game.”
Kaylie Wallace, the A-Sun Pitcher of the Year, took the loss. She gave up only five hits in 7.1 innings. She walked two and struck out three.
“Wallace is not the type of pitcher to give up many big hits,” Ryman said. “Montgomery really got a hold of one. She was able to get it in the gap and use her speed.
“It is unusual for Wallace give up many extra base hits. We were able to string some things together and get some key hits.”
The Lady Bisons took two games from USC Upstate April 13 and 14. After losing the opening game in the series 4-1 the Lady Bisons rebounded for a 5-1 win in game two and a 3-2 victory in game three.
“At this point it is more about us,” Ryman said. “We are playing with a lot of grit and a lot of heart right now. We know what this game means.
“Upstate is good. They have a very talented team. They have proved to be a good team all year long.”
The Lady Bisons have been working with the one-two punch of Heather Parker and Tanner Sanders in the circle. Both have started. Both have won a game in relief. Sanders picked up the win against Kennesaw State in relief and Parker closed out the game against North Florida for her 15th win.
“They are both doing their jobs,” Ryman said. “Starting-wise they are holding the other team down as long as possible and giving the offense a chance. And they are both coming in and closing the door. They are finding a way to limit big hits.”