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Toughness and intelligence aid Mitchell behind the plate

Thursday, May 10, 2012

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The outcome of today's game between the Lipscomb Lady Bisons and USC Upstate is uncertain.

But when the two teams square off at 2 p.m. CDT in the loser's bracket of the Atlantic Sun Tournament here at Cyrill Stadium there is one certainty – Mollie Mitchell will be behind the plate.

Mitchell has caught every game this season for the Lady Bisons, missing only a couple of innings. She wouldn't have it any other way.

"I don't think of it as stress," Mitchell said. "I look at it as an opportunity. I love it.

"I've played third. I get bored when I don't play catcher because I don't have any control."

As the catcher for the Lady Bisons Mitchell does control much of the game. For the past two seasons, coach Kristin Ryman and pitching coach Lexi Myers have allowed Mitchell to call pitches. This season she is working with fellow senior Whitney Kiihnl and redshirt freshman Ashley Anderson in the pitcher's circle.

"It's constant strategy," Mitchell said. "I feel like a lot of pressure is on me, but I don't mind it.

"We all work real well together. The coaches trust me to call the pitches. It is always fun to figure out the different pitchers and how they should throw."

Ryman has been impressed with Mitchell's grasp of the game from the start of her freshman year.

"Mollie is a smart kid," Ryman said. "She gets what we are trying to do. She and Lexi are on the same page the majority of the time with what pitch is going to be called.

"She really learned quickly. She knows Whitney so well. She can tell when things are a little off and she communicates that well with us. She has also really worked hard to learn Ashley this season."

Catching for a long perod of time can often result in hitting struggles. Mitchell experimented with being a designated player but she did not like the adjustment.

"For me that was harder," Mitchell said. "When I am catching I’m really into the game. I know the umpire's strike zone. I know what he is calling.

"When you are just coming off the bench to hit that is a completely different thing. I feel like that is a lot harder to do."

She has a large bruise on her right leg. Both of her wrists and a thumb have been hurt this season. Despite the injuries and a string of 14-inning days Mitchell chooses to persevere.

"I take foul balls off of my legs now and then," Mitchell said. "I want to be out there so bad I am not going to let things hold me back.

"There are definitely times when it is 100 degrees outside and I don't feel like I have anything left. But I put a cold rag on my neck and get a drink of water."

Not surprisingly, Ryman calls Mitchell one of the toughest players she has worked with.

"She has battled through so many little injuries and big injuries that a lot of people wouldn't know about," Ryman said. "She is going to find a way to play no matter what is bothering her.

She has been that way throughout her career.

"It's tough on your body. She has really caught almost every single game and inning since she has been here. She has been that steady player behind the plate – that leader that we need on the field. We know every single day she is going to be in the line-up."

Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.