KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Haley Elliott’s six-RBI performance at the plate began before the first pitch was thrown.
A few minutes prior to the 12-3 win over Virginia Tech Saturday night at Lee Stadium Elliott could be seen lying on the ground in the bullpen listening to Lipscomb pitching coach Megan Rhodes Smith helping her visualize what she was going to do in the game.
Elliott is a senior designated player. She spends a lot of time working with pitchers as a bullpen catcher. She has been part of visualization sessions with Smith before as she works with the pitchers.
Worried about her hitting mechanics in the 4-2 win over Charleston Southern earlier in the day in the NCAA Knoxville Regional she sought help from Smith.
“I may not direct the visualization towards her because the pitchers are there,” Smith said. “This was probably the first time she has come to me right before a game and said that she needed to do it.”
Smith stressed Elliott’s work at the plate was not the result of anything she said.
“I didn’t say anything special,” Smith said. “Haley realized something wasn’t quite clicking. She didn’t have the mindset in the field that she wanted in the batter’s box.
“We just sat down and visualized a great swing. She saw herself hitting inside pitches and outside pitches. She went out there and went to work.”
Elliott connected for three hits, all producing RBI. She opened quietly enough with a sac bunt in the second inning.
In the fourth Rena’ Cothron singled to center field, Elliott then launched a pitch off of Kelly Heinz over the left field fence for two runs.
In the sixth she drove in a run on a single to left that scored Paige Neely.
Back at the plate in the seven-run seventh she blasted a shot off of the top of the scoreboard in left center to bring home three runs.
“I got behind in the count before I hit the first home run,” Elliott said. "There were no outs and Rena’ was on base. I was wondering if a home run was going to be a possibility.”
The second home run was a pitch from reliever Maggie Tyler.
“I was trying to keep it simple,” Elliott said. “I was just trying to make solid contact. I wasn’t trying to hit a home run.”
Smith spends a great deal of time working with her pitchers on the mental side of the game. She was happy Elliott also was able to benefit.
“It works because you take control of your mindset and input into your brain what you want your body to do,” Smith said. “You don’t have a bunch of jumbled thoughts, negatives or uncontrollables. It is see the ball, hit the ball.”
Elliott has six home runs this season. Her six RBI tied the season game high set by Brianne Welch against Jacksonville March 15.
Familiar faces: Smith has connections with every team in the regional.
She was a standout pitcher for the University of Tennessee and has also coached as an assistant at Charleston Southern.
“I have been back here with other teams where I have coached,” Smith said. “I am comfortable in Lee Stadium. It is like home.
“It doesn’t really matter if I am comfortable or not. But I hope our girls are starting to feel comfortable here now.”
She even has a connection to Virginia Tech though it isn’t the greatest of memories.
“The last game I played in while in college was against Virginia Tech,” Smith said. “It was in the NCAA Regionals. I was the losing pitcher.”
Bus problems: The NCAA has furnished buses for the teams participating in the regionals. The Lipscomb bus had some problems. Ironically, the players were driven from the field to their hotel on Virginia Tech’s bus after the 12-3 win.
The Virginia Tech players did not share the ride with the Lady Bisons. They were delivered to the hotel first.