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3/15/2014 | Nashville, Tenn. | Attendance: 127
3/15/2014 | Nashville, Tenn. | Attendance: 158
Friday, March 14, 2014
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Sometimes fathers do know best.
That is what Lipscomb junior left fielder Brianne Welch found out this summer. Disappointed and discouraged about her lack of playing time last season she was sent home for the summer knowing she had to improve her hitting if she wanted to break into the lineup on a regular basis.
“I worked hard during the summer but I didn’t work significantly harder than I usually do,” Welch said. “It is very frustrating to sit on the bench. I felt so much pressure in the times I did hit last year. I knew if I didn’t get a hit I wasn’t going to play.
“This summer in Florida I was talking with my Dad (Brian). I felt like there was nothing else I could do because I had been working so hard to hit. He told me I had to learn to stay relaxed. It took a couple of weeks to get that through my brain because I am so stubborn and don’t think that way.”
Welch told her father she didn’t know how to stay relaxed. But one day they were both watching baseball on television and her father made an astute observation.
“He told me to watch the batters when they were in the box,” Welch said. “He asked me what I noticed and I said I noticed that the batters moved in the box.
“He asked me to try it. I used to just stand in the box and get tense. I would sometimes forget to breathe in the batter’s box. Hitting against a pitching machine I started working on getting some movement in the box and it worked.”
Welch has been one of the top two batters for the Lady Bisons in terms of average for most of the season. She heads into this weekend’s series with Jacksonville at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium hitting .354, second to Paige Neely who is hitting .386.
“I didn’t make any major changes in my swing,” Welch said. “I worked on focusing on hitting more ground balls instead of pop ups because I have a natural upswing.
“I go in the batter’s box now and I am confident. I am having fun; I love it. I am not scared of any pitcher. I am not afraid that I am not going to get a hit.”
Welch stressed that the batter’s box was a much calmer place to be for her in high school. In an effort to make a better impression at the plate her first two years at Lipscomb the white lines were closing in on her.
In preparation for this season she recalled some words of advice from Tonya Carlisle, her coach at Cherokee High in Canton, Ga.
“My senior year of high school I put a ton of pressure on myself because a bunch of girls graduated and there had been some injuries,” Welch said. “I felt like I needed to lead the team. I didn’t hit as well. She told me to stop being tense and to not think because I overthink everything.”
Carlisle has been keeping up with Welch this season and has let her know how proud she is.
“I texted her that I was having fun,” Welch said. “She preached to me all through high school that I wasn’t going to hit if I wasn’t having fun.”
Putting it all together
There has never been any question about Welch’s ability in the field, but she was not going to be a regular player if she couldn’t hit consistently.
“Defense has never held her back,” Ryman said. “Athletically, it bothered me not to see her on the field more. She was a good enough athlete that we would have benefited.”
Ryman ranks Welch as one of the hardest working players on the team. She thinks all that extra work in the summer, fall and even during Christmas break, is the main reason Welch has been such an effective hitter.
“She went home and worked on her swing during the summer,” Ryman said. “We as coaches could tell that when she came back from Christmas break that there were little things that were different and more consistent. You never question her work ethic. In practice she is always getting after it, laughing and having fun. I have been impressed with everything she has done.
“I could tell there was more of purpose behind what she was doing. I definitely think she is more relaxed. During fall workouts it became very apparent that she was going to be one of our top defenders in the outfield again, but she was much improved offensively.”
Nine is the right spot
Ryman admits that she has thought about moving Welch higher in the batting order, but thinks she is where she needs to be in order to be of the most help.
“It reminds me of the year when Whitney Kiihnl hit in the ninth spot for us and was hitting .370,” Ryman said. “Brianne has been such a spark.
“There are so many perks to having her in the nine hole. She is comfortable there. I think she likes hitting there.”
Ryman stresses it is almost like having a second lead-off batter.
“She may get one less at bat than some other people but the value that she brings in the nine hole is huge,” Ryman said. “She has speed. She has shown more power. What better jump start back to the top of the order than to have someone like that?"
“As a team we are winning. And I think a huge part of that is what Welch is doing in the nine hole. Yes, we could take that production and move it somewhere else but is it going to have the same effect through the lineup that we are seeing right now?”
Beware of the Dolphins
The Lady Bisons play Jacksonville in a doubleheader Saturday starting at 1 p.m. The series closes with a single game on Sunday at noon.
Lipscomb is 21-4 overall, 4-2 in the conference. Jacksonville is 11-12 overall, 3-3 in the A-Sun. Jacksonville is 0-6 on the road this season.
“Jacksonville is definitely a dangerous team,” Ryman said. “They always play a tough preconference schedule and then they started right off of the bat with a hot USC Upstate team.”
Ashley Anderson leads the Lady Bisons in the circle with a 9-0 record and a 1.04 earned run average. Tanner Sanders is 7-2 and Heather Parker is 5-2.
Kelsey Cartwright leads the Purple and Gold with a seven-game hitting streak, the longest of the season for the team.
Codi Kelly is the top hitter for Jacksonville with a .352 average. Also hitting at the .300 level are Cecile Gomez, .322, and Victoria Brown, .318.
“They don’t have too many .300-plus hitters on paper,” Ryman said. “But they do have several girls that are capable of that. We can’t take them likely. They go up there and they hack. If we miss a spot they have the type of team that can make you pay for it in a hurry.”
Brown, 5-6, has a 2.45 ERA to lead Jacksonville.
The Lady Bisons lead the overall series 15-9.
“It is important for us at home to win as many games as we can,” Ryman said. “We are not going to necessarily run away with games, but our goal is to find a way to keep our composure and keep the pressure on them. We have to find a way to execute when things are on the line.”