When former Elmore County star Elissa Brown chose to go to Tuscaloosa to extend her softball career, she expected to make it to Oklahoma City before her career was over. After a two-year drought, the Crimson Tide returned to the Women’s College World Series and Brown soaked in every moment of the experience.
“It was so much fun,” Brown said. “It actually all started with the sendoff and the parade so seeing all those fans and the support for Alabama softball was just unreal. Once we got to Oklahoma City, the atmosphere was really cool and just getting to play in it was unreal.”
Alabama entered the NCAA tournament as the eighth overall seed but the team made it into the semifinals and was one win from the championship series. However, Oklahoma knocked off the Crimson Tide to end their season but the team is already preparing for a return trip in 2020.
“We were so close in our final game,” Brown said. “We got a little taste of it this year but we want the full thing next year. We plan to work hard and we still have the same goal to make it back there next year. We’re ready.”
In her third season at Alabama, Brown set career-highs with 65 hits, 50 runs and 48 stolen bases and was named as a second-team All-SEC outfielder. She started all 68 games in center field and was the team’s leadoff hitter through a majority of the season.
“We won 33 in a row to start the year and a lot of that was because she was getting on base so many times,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. “It says a lot to the rest of the offense that when the top of the order gets on and the rest of the offense says, ‘If she can get on, I can get on.’”
Brown had 16 multi-hit games, leading Alabama to a 13-3 record in those contests. She also finished with multiple stolen bases in 13 games including a career-high four stolen bases against Missouri State.
“If she gets on first base, it’s almost always an immediate stolen base,” Murphy said. “Our goal this year was 50 for her but we’re going to get that next year for sure. We want to get her in the top five in the country next year.”
After a successful regular season at the plate, Brown carried that momentum into the Tuscaloosa Regional where she got six hits, including three in the final game against Arizona State. However, when the Crimson Tide hosted Texas in the super regional, Brown started to struggle due to some calls at the plate.
As a slapper in softball, you have to keep both feet inside the box until you contact the ball. Brown was called out three times during the super regional for hitting the ball while out of the box.
“Her regional performance was incredible but the next weekend, it’s just one of those things that depends on the umpire,” Murphy said. “It’s really unfortunate for some of those kids… but she handled it like a champ. She had a really key at bat against Arizona.”
Brown was moved to the No. 9 hole in the batting order for the WCWS but she still had a major impact on the tournament. During an elimination game against Arizona, she reached base on a fielder’s choice before stealing second and scoring on an RBI double from Bailey Hemphill which led to a 2-0 Alabama win.
“It was definitely frustrating for me to have to break things down and think about staying in the box,” Brown said. “I appreciated Murph for seeing how I felt and he moved me down in the lineup to make me more comfortable and I did. It’s a testament to him because he can see when we need something.”
Murphy said he was never worried about how Brown would handle the change to the batting order because of the character she has shown during her three years in Tuscaloosa.
“She’s a very selfless kid so I wasn’t worried about that,” Murphy said. “She’s an outstanding person and I just want everyone down there to realize how well she’s represented her community at Alabama with the fans, the media and really with anyone that interacts with her. I’m proud to say she’s one of ours.”
With one season remaining in her collegiate career, Brown has her eyes set on another trip to Oklahoma City and getting that elusive 50 stolen bases in a single season. She passed the century mark this year for her career and currently sits on 108 stolen bases.
“We knew from the beginning how we really wanted to push the speed this year,” Brown said. “It was really cool to reach 100 to be in the book with the other Alabama girls like Haylie McCleney and Brittany Rogers. I want to get on base more next year so I can reach those 50 stolen bases hopefully.”
Brown has other goals for her senior season that are outside of just an improved stat line. She will be one of seven seniors on the roster next year and she said they know there will be high expectations on them in their final season.
“I just want to be a role model to everyone else,” Brown said. “We know what’s expected of us from the coaches and what we expect of each other. I want to be a natural leader for them. And I just really want get to those 50 stolen bases.”
To honor its seniors, Alabama has had a history of scheduling games as a homecoming for several of its players. Murphy said there is already a plan in works to get the Crimson Tide a game closer to Elmore County.
“One thing we’re really looking forward to is we’re hoping to come down to Alabama State for like a homecoming game for Elissa,” Murphy said. “We want all of her friends and family to get in the car and make a lot shorter drive from Eclectic to Montgomery than it is to Tuscaloosa.”