Stealing more than 20 bases in a season isn’t an unusual accomplishment for Lipscomb softball player Brittany Elmore.
Stealing 21 bases in only 25 games, however, is a big deal even for Elmore. In Wednesday night’s doubleheader sweep of Tennessee State Elmore stole a combined four bases. She has not been thrown out this season. Heading into the doubleheader with TSU she was ranked 20th in the nation in stolen bases per game.
“Brit has been on a tear lately,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “She gets great jumps. She is that base runner that when she is on base she is immediately putting pressure on the defense. And that helps our offense.
“If the defense is concerned about her it takes a little pressure of our hitters. If they put the ball in play, with her speed, she is going to get extra bases in a hurry.”
She will be back on the base paths Saturday and Sunday at the Lady Bisons open the Atlantic Sun portion of the season against Stetson at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium. Saturday they will meet in a doubleheader at 1. Sunday the three-game series closes with a single game at 1.
Elmore set a new all-time career program stolen base record with 36 her freshman year. As a sophomore she stole 26.
Faster than fast
The base paths aren’t necessarily won by the swiftest but by those who best understand the rules of engagement between the bases.
“You have to know how to use your speed and Brittany knows,” Ryman said. “We have had some players in the past with tremendous speed but they didn’t have Brittany’s aggressiveness and savvy on the bases.
“By the end of the year you don’t see many players stealing 25 or more bases. Brittany always seems to be one of those players.”
She doesn’t really know how to explain her abilities on the base paths. She makes good reads. She takes good jumps and knows how far to lead off of a base. She watches her footwork and she listens to those who may be able to help her get an extra advantage such as coaches with the track team.
“Some of it is trial and error,” Elmore said. “There have been times when I haven’t made smart decisions. It is figuring out what you can and cannot do. I invest a lot of time in making sure I am doing the right things.”
She knows stealing bases is one of the best ways she can help the Lady Bisons. She spends a great deal of time watching opposing pitchers and catchers work.
“I study every move the pitchers and catchers make,” Elmore said. “I am looking to see if the pitcher is paying attention. Does the catcher just lob the ball back to the pitcher or does she drop to her knees as she catches a bad pitch? How far will they let me get off base?
“It is fun to mess with the pitchers and get them rattled. I want to make them have to think about me. I want to keep them on their toes.”
Elmore plays with a consistent level of confidence. She is the rare player who can find a balance between being confident and being humble.
“Brittany has a little swagger about how she plays – how she stands in the box, how she carries herself and how she runs the bases,” Ryman said. “The cool thing about it she is going to get a little more out of her talent because she carries herself with that confidence.”
The first thing Ryman noticed about Elmore when she was recruiting her was her speed. Ryman compares Elmore positively with former players Lauren Dortwegt and Whitney Kiihnl.
“There are players that are fast and there are players that are faster than fast – that next level fast,” Ryman said. “I think Brittany is that next level fast.”
With each passing season Elmore senses how important her base running skills are to the Lady Bisons. She is always on the lookout to take an extra base. Ryman has not seen many players who can do that so instinctively. She wants to make the defense uncomfortable.”
Setting the table
Elmore has been the leadoff hitter for the Lady Bisons since her freshman year. She is a triple threat at the plate with the ability to bunt, slap or hit away.
““I worked on hitting away more my first two years here, but now I am trying to go back to the balance of both. If I don’t work on my slap I can’t expect it to be there all of the time.
“Bunting is also something you have to work on. It doesn’t just come to you. Being able to find that balance is difficult at times.”
Usually a leadoff hitter might excel in one or two of those areas, but Elmore is a unique three-tool player at the plate.
“Not every slapper can also be really good at dropping bunts and swinging away effectively at this level,” Ryman said. “We have had very few who could do all three extremely well.”
Elmore’s goal is to immediately set a tone at the plate, not only for herself but for the team.
“Brittany is the ultimate weapon at the top of the order,” Ryman said. “She is a difference maker.”