It has been a fun couple of days for the Lipscomb Bisons baseball team.
Rallies, cheers, pats on the back and unprecedented media attention have filled their time along with a couple of practice sessions. Wednesday afternoon there was one last ceremony to send the Bisons off to Athens, Ga., for the NCAA Regional.
But when the Bisons boarded their buses the fun was over. Thursday afternoon the Bisons will practice at Foley Field on the University of Georgia campus.
Friday at 2 p.m. the Bisons will play host Georgia, the No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the No. 1 seed in the regional. Georgia Tech and Louisville play in the second game at 6. The double-elimination tournament continues through Sunday.
The games will be televised on CSS.
The Bisons, the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Champion, have been pointing to this weekend since they first started workouts in the fall.
“I could just see how they handled themselves once we started practice,” said Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand. “I tried to treat them like an older team and give then a little bit of rope and see which way they were going to take it.
“All year long they were resilient. They pressed each other and challenged each other to be better. It is amazing how this team came together, but it came together because we have so much senior leadership.”
Forehand points to players like shortstop Jorge Gutierrez, right fielder Shane Simpkins, left fielder Blake Bratcher and second baseman Ben Williams as examples of the leadership of the team.
“Ben came in under the old coaching staff,” Forehand said. “He has been a leader mentally and emotionally and on the field.”
The biggest challenge, Forehand said, was to turn around the mental approach of the team.
“We had to get out of that phase that we are Lipscomb and we aren’t going to be able to x or y,” Forehand said. “Then we started to finally believe we could do x and y and we put some things together.”
When the Bisons practice at Foley Field for the first time, Forehand doesn’t plan to measure the bases or the distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. He doesn’t think he has to worry about how his team is going to perform on a bigger stage.
“I don’t think we are going to be overwhelmed,” Forehand said. “They have some confidence.
“They also respect the team we are playing. They understand that we are playing a very, very good team. Some of our preparation has been playing some of these other schools like LSU, Alabama , Vanderbilt , Tennessee and Auburn so we are not in awe of the facility or the name across the jersey.”