By Justin Smith
Special to TideSports
A visit back home to Eclectic, Alabama, for Elissa Brown does not come without its fair share of fanfare.
Signs of recognition line up in her grandmother’s front yard and the excitement for this small town product is echoed through the town’s support. Brown, a junior outfielder for the Alabama softball team, feeds off that energy and said she feels that support has remained constant.
“It is a really small town, so I have a bunch of support from everyone,” said Brown, one of 50 players selected to this year’s USA Softball Player of the Year watch list. “They know my journey from the beginning when I was trying to go play ball. I had the same support then that I have now.”
Brown’s journey to the Capstone, about a two-hour drive from Eclectic in Elmore County, is rooted in her upbringing.
“Alabama has always been my dream school,” Brown said. “It is something that the other girls and I wanted to be a part of. We felt at home from the very first moment we got here and we are so excited to be here.”
Brown will help lead the Crimson Tide softball team, ranked No. 9 in the NFCA poll and No. 11 in the USA Softball poll, into the season opener on Friday in the Trojan Classic in Troy. Alabama, which finished the 2018 season 36-20, is 84-19 in season-opening weekends.
Brown led the Crimson Tide with a .341 batting average last season to go along with her 45 hits and 29 runs scored. Brown’s strong sophomore season lead to All-SEC and NFCA All-American honors.
Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said he feels the Crimson Tide will depend heavily on Brown’s abilities at the plate this season as well as her speed. They have both set a goal to get 50 stolen bases and he feels if she can get her on-base percentage above .425 or .450, the whole team will benefit.
“She is probably the fastest kid we ever had,” Murphy said. “You just have to take advantage of her wheels.”
Murphy has seen the growth and maturity Brown showed in her junior season. She puts in extra running reps at practice with the strength and conditioning coach, something she started doing at the start of last season. A jump in her dedication and awareness has sparked the attention of Murphy.
Brown is one of the 15 players Alabama returns from last season.
Alabama ended last year with losses to Washington in the NCAA Seattle Super Regional. Murphy has noticed this team has a different feel and the confidence players like Brown instill in teammates plays a role in that.
“I want to be that energy for the team,” Brown said. “Some days it is hard because we are working a lot. We always have to keep in mind that we have an end goal. We need that energy and commitment every single day to reach that goal.”
At the Trojan Classic this weekend, Brown is expected to see a ton of action as Murphy has expressed she was one of the five players that have the green light.