NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Not worrying about things that you cannot control is a lesson that everyone could learn.
For Lipscomb left-handed pitcher Ashley Anderson that message has been received this season. She lives it every time she goes to the circle.
She is 7-0 with an 0.84 earned run average heading into Saturday and Sunday’s three-game Atlantic Sun series with Florida Gulf Coast. A doubleheader begins Saturday at 1 p.m. and a single game will be played Sunday at 1 at Smith Stadium at Draper Diamond.
The Lady Bisons, winners of their last four games, are 17-3, 2-1 in the conference. FGCU is 12-8-1 and will be playing its first conference series of the season.
Anderson has led the Lady Bisons trio of pitchers which also includes a pair of right-handers – Tanner Sanders and Heather Parker.
“Ashley was bringing a lot of uncontrollables into her pitching…worries and basically things you can’t do anything about,” Lipscomb pitching coach Megan Rhodes Smith said. “We have worked on having her focus on the things she can control and trusting her pitches
“Sometimes you can throw the perfect pitch and it gets hit. Sometimes you can throw it down the middle and the batter will just look at it.”
Smith stresses that is an example of an uncontrollable.
“Ashley can’t control what a batter is going to do,” Smith said. “She can’t control me. She can’t control the mound. She has to let go of those things and really focus on the things she can take care of.
“I am proud of her. She has done such a great job of just letting go and throwing. She is not holding herself back. She is definitely confident. She is reaping the benefit of all of the hard work she has been putting in.”
Smith has a background in sports psychology and she has worked with the entire pitching staff, including freshmen Taylor Neuhart and McCarley Thomas, on the mental side of the game.
In the speed zone
It wasn’t a goal for this season but Anderson, 6-foot-2, is throwing harder than she ever has in her career. She had added about five miles per hour on the average to her pitches.
“Speed is affected by how tense you are,” Smith said. “She’s loose. You are not forcing it when you are not tense. Your body can do what it is capable of doing. Truthfully, I didn’t care if she gained any speed or not because I think off-speed pitchers are so effective.
“I love having different speeds on the staff. When I first saw the speed she was throwing I was perfectly happy with it. It has just been an added bonus that she has picked up about five miles an hour on her pitches. She was topping out at 63 last week. She was at 57 or 58 in the fall.”
Smith is a big believer in visualization. Anderson has found it to be beneficial for her as she prepares to pitch.
“You can look at it as focusing on the positive, but basically it is focusing on what you want,” Smith said. “Pitchers get on the mound and think about all of the things they don’t want to happen instead of what they want.”
Smith points out that research shows visualization does make a difference.
“Basically you are in-putting into your body what you want to happen without having to put in the reps in practice,” Smith said. “It is like free practice.
“I have done it personally and benefited from it. I have seen other pitchers use it and get a lot of benefit from it.”
Pitching with a purpose
Anderson and Smith clicked from the start in the fall.
“Coach Smith came in and she had a purpose,” Anderson said. “She made a point of telling me what she expects.
“Mentally, she showed me I could be confident. It was like, you have the potential. So get out there and use that potential. Leaps and bounds that has made a huge difference for me this year.”
Smith has added a curve ball to Anderson’s pitching arsenal. Anderson thinks that has helped increase her effectiveness.
“That has been a huge help,” Anderson said. “She works on us seeing our spots.
“We don’t break everything down. We are all so different as pitchers. She has worked with each one of us in an individual setting.”
Florida Gulf Coast was picked to finish second in the conference by a vote of the coaches. Lipscomb was ranked third.
Lady Bisons head coach Kristin Ryman expects a strong offensive attack from the Eagles who are led by Kelsey Carpenter with a .500 batting average and an .817 slugging percentage.
“Carpenter has power,” Ryman said. “She runs well. She is just a good all-around athlete.”
The Eagles have three other hitters with averages above .300.
“Over the years they have been known for their hitting,” Ryman said. “This year they have kind of been up and down. They have some new kids in their lineup. You can’t assume they are not going to hit well. At any moment they can hit really well one-through-nine.
“They always have good athletes. They are one of the top teams in the conference. Even though they are athletic with good hitters from top to bottom they are relying on the top and the middle of the order. When they are most dangerous is when the bottom of their order gets going, just like us. And I feel like they can do that at any moment.”
The Eagles have four pitchers that have all thrown 30 or more inning this season.
“That is very unique,” Ryman said. “Occasionally, you see a team like ours which has three pitchers who have all thrown a decent amount of innings.
“They are going to use all of them. They have good options. They are going to give us several different looks. It is going to be very important that we make adjustments quickly at the plate.”