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Softball "Smash Sisters" heat up competition at Tennessee Tech

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
by Mark McGee

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Oakland A’s had the “Bash Brothers”, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. The Lipscomb Lady Bisons have the “Smash Sisters” in Kelsey Cartwright and Kristen Sturdivant.

Tuesday afternoon in a doubleheader sweep of Tennessee Tech from the Ohio Valley Conference Kelsey Cartwright and Sturdivant each blasted a pair of home runs. They bat back-to-back in the third and fourth positions.

“As much as we like the home runs we prefer to not live or die by having to score off of home runs,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “It worked out for us tonight. Kelsey and Kristen really came through for us in clutch situations.

“If a team pitches around Kelsey it doesn’t get any easier for them with Kristen coming to the plate next. The power potential is still there. And when those two are clicking at the same time it makes us that much more dangerous especially if we have Brittany Elmore going at the top and Paige Neely clicking in the second spot.”

In the 6-1 win in the first game Kelsey Cartwright connected for a solo home run in the third and a two-run shot in the fifth. Sturdivant capped off the power fest with a three-run smash in the seventh.

After falling behind 3-1 in game two the Lady Bisons added one run in the fifth to cut the lead to 3-2. In the seventh they scored one on back-to-back errors to tie the game. Sturdivant struck again with a three-run round-tripper in the seventh to cap a 6-3 victory.

Kelsey Cartwright is back in the zone as a hitter with each passing game.

“Kelsey is hitting with a lot of power,” Ryman said. “She has had a lot of things thrown at her in the last year as far as injuries.

“In the past week she has become a lot of more comfortable at the plate and is more composed. She just keeps working at it every day in practice tweaking little things with her swing. She is doing more of what she is capable of.”

Sturdivant also spent the offseason and the fall working on her swing. The power she exhibits when she connects for a homer generates talk among fans long after a game has ended.

“Kristen hits the ball as hard as anybody,” Ryman said. “She had a couple of bats early in game one where she was struggling with her timing. But she made some adjustments and got a good barrel on the ball late. And then in game two she connected again for the big hit.

“She is an exciting player to watch hit. She has worked hard to cut down some on her strikeouts. If she can continue to put the ball in play consistently she is going to get more home runs.”

The Lady Bisons are 21-4. Tennessee Tech slipped to 8-18.

Ryman was glad to see the Lady Bisons rally for the win in game two, but she would rather see the team start strong and stay consistent instead of depending on last inning heroics. They combined for seven runs in the seventh inning.

“I thought we put ourselves in a hole in game two, but we found a way to work out of it,” Ryman said. “Credit the top part of the order in the last inning for putting the ball in play and making things happen.

“We were in the right situation if we were going to make a comeback. I would prefer that we not get used to this come-from-behind win approach, but we will take them however we can get them.”

This weekend the Lady Bisons return to Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium for a three-game Atlantic Sun series with Jacksonville. A doubleheader Saturday begins at 1 p.m. The series closes with a single game Sunday at noon.

Left-hander Ashley Anderson extended her record to 9-0 with a win in game one. She scattered six hits, walked two and struck out five.

It wasn’t an easy win. She gave up a triple in the first inning and was able to stop the runner from scoring. In the fourth and sixth innings she had to deal with bases loaded situations and only gave up one unearned run.

“Ashley had to fight her way out of some jams in a few innings,” Anderson said. “She hasn’t been challenged like that recently. But she got the key strikeout or the key ground out when she needed it.

“She kept her composure. We don’t like it but it is good to be challenged like that in a non-conference game. If it happens in a conference game they can say they have been there before and they will know how to work out of it.”

Heather Parker, 5-2, threw a complete game. She allowed only three hits. She walked two and struck out two.

“Heather didn’t give up many hits,” Ryman said. “She had a game similar to Ashley’s. It was good to see her fight through it and go the full seven.”