|Win: SANDERS (8-4)||7.0||8||5||3||4||4|
|Loss: KETCHUM (6-4)||5.0||7||5||4||1||2|
|Win: PARKER (4-7)||3.0||8||3||3||1||3|
|Loss: TUCK (0-2)||4.1||6||5||5||3||0|
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
It’s good that Brittany Elmore likes a challenge. She has had more than her share in her freshman season.
Elmore is the lead-off hitter for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball team. She knows what she does will set the tone for the rest of the team offensively. She made the move to the outfield to start the season, only to move to second base after 16 games. She also is 29th in NCAA Division I in stolen bases with 15, an average of .63 per game.
Elmore admits she is surprised at the impact she has made on the team so early in her career. She is batting .349, second on the team. She leads the team in multi-hit games with nine. Her 15 steals and 18 attempts both lead the Atlantic Sun Conference.
“I am always up for a challenge,” Elmore said. “Wherever my team needs me to play, or wherever I am going to benefit the team, is where I want to play. I’m glad I can help.
“I don’t like things to come easy to me. I want a challenge. It makes me feel more accomplished.”
Elmore’s versatility both offensively and defensively caught LU softball coach Kristin Ryman’s attention early in the recruiting process as standout on the Goodpasture Christian School team.
“It’s hard to find players like that who can legitimately come into an NCAA Division I program and play in the outfield or infield or slap and hit,” Ryman said.
Heading into Wednesday’s games with Tennessee Tech from the Ohio Valley Conference the Lady Bisons are 19th in the nation in stolen bases with 48, an average of two per game.
Game times for the doubleheader are 4 and 6 p.m. The Lady Bisons are 11-13 overall. Tennessee Tech is 11-9. LU holds an 11-8 series advantage. This is the first meeting between the two teams since 2010.
“I was never big enough to be a power-hitter,” Elmore said. “God gave me the ability to run the bases. That was my one strength. As a slap hitter I can put the ball in play and get on base with my speed.”
Elmore usually steals based on signals from the coaching staff. A few years ago there was a movie about stealing cars titled “Gone in 60 Seconds”. If they made a movie about Elmore it would be called “Gone in 60 Feet”. She credits her success to both her physical and mental approach to running the base paths with a touch of good old-fashioned guts added.
“I think it is a mixture,” Elmore said. “Obviously, you have to have some kind of speed to steal a base. But at the same time it is mental…knowing when you can go and when you can’t.
“It comes with experience in running the bases. It is like trial and error. When you have been doing it for a long time you know if you can make it or not.”
Ryman points to Elmore’s aggressiveness at the plate and on the base paths. She sometimes allows her base runners to make a decision whether to steal or not.
“There are a few times where they can read a pitch in the dirt and steal on their own,” Ryman said. “That is true for any of our girls. Brittany is pretty good at that. She is willing to take more chances on the bases than some other players.
“Most of the time it is a called steal. We are trying to be more aggressive because we know as a whole that we have more team speed. But we continue to emphasize it is not only about speed.”
Ryman stresses that some of her players get upset if they aren’t given a chance to steal a base.
“Brittany loves to steal bases,” Ryman said. “There are several of them that do. When they get on base, if I don’t give a steal signal, you can see they aren’t happy.
“They get the sense that they know they can beat a catcher. Brittany has that mentality more often than not. If you get on, you have to be almost dying for the coach to give you a steal signal. Brittany has that approach. She has good instincts in knowing when to break and when to hold and read a ball a little longer.”
Elmore, a left-handed hitter, is more than a slap hitter. She can hit away as well, which makes her a multiple threat in the lead-off spot. From almost the first day of fall practice Ryman had penciled in Elmore to bat at the top of the order. That decision quickly was written in permanent ink.
“There is no disrespect to the players we had batting lead-off the last couple of years, but they weren’t necessarily true lead-off hitters,” Ryman said. “I thought they did the job well for us at times, but they weren’t the ideal fit.
“When we recruited Brittany I knew the top of the order was going to be the best fit for her. She has always been the No. 1 or No. 2 hitter for most of the teams she has played for. I think it is important to have someone that has that mentality of knowing what it is like to be a lead-off hitter. She knows the importance of setting the tone for the offense.”
Elmore sometimes finds it difficult to be both a slap hitter and a regular hitter.
“It is very difficult for me,” Elmore said. “If I am focusing on slapping I am not focusing on hitting. Therefore, I might not be as good at hitting as I am slapping. You have to find that balance and be good at both.
“I read the defense. Basically, for me it is a matter of placement of the ball. If you hit the ball hard to the shortstop it doesn’t matter how fast you are because you are going to be out.”
Ryman ranks Elmore as one of the major weapons on offense.
“She has really good bat control with her slap,” Ryman said. “She is able to place it, which is tough sometimes for a freshman.
“Brittany has a good head on her shoulders as far as knowing when to swing away. It would be easy for someone with multiple weapons like she has to get anxious. And she avoids that. As soon as you think she is going to hit away or slap she will drop a bunt. She just reads what the defense gives her really well. All those things combined make her a really great lead-off hitter.”
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