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Better Know a Regional Opponent: The Lipscomb Bisons

Vanderbilt will kick off their NCAA Tournament against a familiar foe. The Lipscomb Bisons will make the three mile hike to Natchez Trace to face off with the Commodores in a #1/#4 battle in the Nashville Regional. Can they upset Vandy once more in 2015?

The Bisons' secret weapon? Punching.
The Bisons' secret weapon? Punching.
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Lipscomb won't have to travel far when they kick off their 2015 NCAA Baseball Tournament; Vanderbilt's Hawkins Field is only three miles from campus.

The Hawk will be a familiar setting as well. The Bisons (whose most heated collegiate rival is proper pluralization) notched their biggest win of the season when they toppled the then-#1 Commodores on the road back in April. Bradley Puckett twirled 7.1 stellar innings to snap Vandy's six-game winning streak and banish the 'Dores from the top spot on the national rankings from the rest of the season. Tim Corbin's team failed to push a run across the plate until the eighth inning and left seven runners on base in a loss that would become endemic to this team's struggles in 2015.

Now, Lipscomb has the opportunity to prove that win was no fluke. A second win over Vanderbilt would cement their status as a top 50 baseball team and move them one step closer to a Super Regional bid. However, a look at their record shows why Vandy will be a big favorite on Friday despite being 0-1 against their in-city foes.

The Bisons have a marquee win over the Commodores, but they were relatively untested throughout the 2015 season. In their 57 games, they only faced top 100 competition a dozen times. They'll step into a whole new world on Friday when they square off with Vandy ace Carson Fulmer. Fulmer, a probable top-15 pick in this year's MLB Draft, is a tier above most SEC pitchers. Transitioning from the cream of the Atlantic Sun crop to face a pitcher who may be the best in the entire NCAA will be a monstrous undertaking for Lipscomb.

The Lipscomb Bisons

Record: 39-18 (13-8 Atlantic Sun)

NCAA RPI Rank82nd (Vanderbilt is 13th)

All-Time Record Against Vanderbilt: 11-48. But 1-0 this season. Sigh.

Best Win: That 3-1 weekday win over #13 Vanderbilt. Otherwise, you're picking between one win in three tries against Alabama or a 3-2 season record versus #44 North Florida.

Worst Loss: Lipscomb's Tuesdays this season included that win over Vandy and two losses to #215 Austin Peay. Though the Bisons ruined the Governors 12-6 in the middle of the year, that win was sandwiched between two other losses. APSU finished the season with a 25-26 record.

Batter to Be Wary Of: The Bisons have four batters with an on-base percentage greater than .400 and more than 10 steals on the season, so it's safe to say that Vandy's catchers will be busy on Friday (each team, coincidentally, has stolen 90 bases this season). Jonathan Allison is the most dangerous of the bunch thanks to a .319 average and 25 extra-base hits this season.

Pitchers to Watch: Ian Martinez-McGraw has been the Bisons' Friday starter, so the Commodores can expect to see him to open up their Nashville Regional. Martinez-McGraw's peripherals aren't great - 57 strikeouts vs. 40 walks, a .252 batting average against, and 1.46 baserunners allowed per inning - but he's still held opposing teams to just 2.50 runs every nine innings. He's got the profile of the junkball-type pitcher that has hamstrung Vanderbilt this season. If he can paint the corners this Friday then he'll frustrate plenty of Commodore fans.

Key Stat: 73.7%. Lipscomb has won nearly three out of every four road games this season - a rate higher than their home winning percentage (67.7%). That includes a 100% win rate at Hawkins Field this season. However, the teams they beat outside of Nashville went just 174-209 (.454) in 2015. They won't have nearly as easy a schedule in the NCAA Tournament.