After defeating the Louisiana Lady Bulldogs on the road during the season opener, our Elsberry Lady Indians haven’t lost any steam, moving on to plow through Wellsville, Clopton and Silex in rapid succession, losing only to North Callaway on Sept.10 and Highland on Sept. 14.
While softball is definitely a team sport and winning is done as a unit rather than individually, such an impressive string of early victories would not have been possible without the stellar pitching of senior Becca Almus.
Almus has started every game this season with the exception of the Wellsville contest and she is quickly making a reputation for herself as a force to be reckoned with.
“I just try to keep batters off balance and trust my catcher to know what pitches I like to throw,” said Almus. “I can throw some speed, but I don’t like to use it. The more movement on the ball the better.”
Almus may strive to keep hitters off balance, but she never seems to get that way herself.
In fact, she never seems to let the game get to her at all.
No matter what the score, she always stands right there on the mound with a smile on her face and does what she needs to do to get out of the inning.
“When I go out there, I know that we are facing another team,” said Almus. “I just don’t think about who they are.”
Lady Indians Head Coach Trudy Bull has watched Almus develop that type of confidence gradually, gaining poise one season at a time.
“As a young player she would tend to show her emotions,” said Bull. “I have had to remind her of her game face in the past. She is now a very composed player.”
Bull added that Almus has been a starter for the team since she was a freshman and she has put in hundreds of hours working with both pitching and hitting coaches to develop into the player she is now.
Almus has five pitches in her arsenal: fastball, rise ball, curve ball, drop ball and screw ball and she is just as comfortable with one as she is with any of the others.
“Every hitter is different,” said Almus. “It just depends on who’s hitting. I like all my pitches and I really don’t prefer one type of hitter to another.”
If Bull had a choice, however, she would like to see Almus develop a little better rise ball.
“It’s not that she throws it badly, it’s just that it’s very hard for high school kids to lay off of that pitch,” said Bull. “She does pretty well against any batter when she keeps the ball down in the zone. Her trouble is when she gets it up and they can turn on it. She doesn’t have the blinding speed to throw it past batters most of the time, so she has to use her pitches effectively.”
So far this season, Almus has shown an instinct for throwing the right pitch at the right time.
“It depends on where the batter stands, how their swing is and where they are in the lineup,” said Almus. “That’s how I choose my pitches.”
Of course, a big part of the success that Almus enjoys on the mound is due to the presence of Brittni Hagemeier behind the plate.
“They’ve both been playing ball forever and they know the game inside and out,” said Bull. “They trust each other which is huge. Becca is comfortable throwing to Brittni and knows that she will cover her pitches and Brittni knows that Becca will be close to her spots with her pitches.”
With that kind of history together, it’s no wonder that Almus and Hagemeier are able to function as such a natural unit.
“Brittni has been catching me since freshman year,” said Almus. “We’ve known each other for such a long time that things are just easy for us.”
“We’ve been with each other ever since we started playing softball, added Hagemeier. “Since I started catching freshman year it’s just been me and her.”
Given this season’s starting line-up, it is unlikely that Almus and her arm will either one see a lot of rest.
“Becca is our number one pitcher and will always be on the mound in the big games,” said Bull.
Hagemeier added that while Felicia Pruitt is a great pitcher and is able to start in some of the less stressful games, when it comes to the hard games Coach Bull puts Becca in.
“We need Flea [Felicia Pruitt] at third,” said Hagemeier. “She’s an outstanding third baseman.”
Almus has made quite a name for herself at the plate as well.
Almus is surprisingly humble with regard to her contributions to the team.
“I just want to thank Coach Bull for pushing me and for making me realize that this is a team effort,” said Almus, who hopes to attend Lindenwood University next year on a softball scholarship.
“I want to play college ball, but after that I just don’t know,” said Almus.
For Lady Indians Assistant Coach Hector Bencomo, the sky is the limit as far as Almus and her future are concerned.
“Becca is one of the most dedicated players that I have come across in softball,” said Bencomo. “Without a doubt, to Becca life is softball. She has a very bright future ahead of her.”
As you might expect, Almus currently has her sights set on more short-term goals.
“I would like to go to state, but we’re just going to keep working hard and trying to win games,” said Almus. “We’re taking it one game at a time. We have a lot of potential and I just hope we can keep working together as a team and everything comes together for us.”
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