The Good Word | By Jon Cooper
Emily Anderson plans to be the first surgeon in her family of Georgia Tech graduates. She’s has a lot more schooling ahead of her but the right-handed pitcher is no stranger to studying both on and off the field.
As the Yellow Jackets (11-7) begin Atlantic Coast Conference play this weekend with a series in Charlottesville, Va., against the University of Virginia Cavaliers (8-14), Anderson is using her analytic mind to get the best of opposing hitters.
Last weekend, she delivered big time, appearing in five of Georgia Tech’s six games, winning four of them -- two by shutout -- and earning a save in the other. She logged 25 innings, striking out 22 and allowing but one run (a 0.28 ERA). She didn’t allow a run over the final 17 innings.
For the season the senior from LaGrange is 8-3 -- 6-1 after an 0-2 start -- with an ACC-leading 0.98 ERA, is holding batters to a .180 batting average and has whiffed 76, third in the ACC. Her eight wins are only two fewer than her single-season best, which she recorded each of the past two seasons, and her opponents’ batting average is down 88 points from her career average coming into the season.
“I think I’m really just going out and taking it one pitch at a time,” said Anderson, describing the source of her success. “I’m doing what my coaches are telling me to do and hitting my spots and everything’s just kind of falling into place.
“I really haven’t changed anything drastically,” she added. “I’m just going in trying to get the batter. Kind of throwing to my strengths and what I like to throw as well as what the hitter doesn’t like to see, which I think is working out on both sides.”
Pitching coach Alison Owen believes Anderson’s success is no accident but a credit to her tenacity and preparation.
“Emily’s mentality and ability to study swing paths has set her apart this season thus far,” said Owen. “She does a great job with making mid-at bat adjustments and locations according to the hitters positioning. I look forward to watching her and her teammates compete this weekend beginning ACC play.”
Owen and Anderson go back to travel ball, when Anderson played for Owen’s father and with her younger sister. Owen helped out then and still is a valuable sounding board.
“She’s very helpful,” Anderson said. “For the most part we’re pretty much on the same page pitch-calling-wise and everything. When I come off the field, she’ll tell me if she sees anything and I can tell her if I see anything specific about hitters or about my timing that day. We work on adjusting and working through things as the game goes and growing as the game goes and adjusting to the other team a lot faster. I think it’s working pretty well for us.”
Things are working well for the Jackets, who have won three straight and nine of 10 (they were rained out on Tuesday). They’d like to continue that trend this weekend against the Cavaliers, who have struggled, losing three straight and eight of 10 but also have taken the last two series against Tech. Last season, Anderson earned the win in the series opener but suffered the loss in the finale. The Cavs return nine players, six of them starters, including reigning ACC Co-Player of the Week, senior Allison Davis, who has homered in five straight games. Anderson believes seeing them last season is something she can use to her advantage.
“As a senior throwing against ACC teams, I definitely have an advantage because I have been doing it for four years,” she said. “I’m really familiar with how their team plays and I like to study hitters a lot so I’ve seen a lot of their returners. I got to throw to them last year; they’ll still be in their lineup this year so I’ve already had a year to kind of watch them and see their tendencies and what worked last year and what I can do better against them this year.”
Changing her result is about all she wants to change against Virginia.
“This weekend I’m just going to focus on hitting spots and just spinning the ball like I have been,” she said. “We’ll definitely scout them a lot more than we scouted the teams that we’ve played thus far and watch a lot more film, which I think will help a lot. We’ll go in with a little bit more solid of a game plan with how we’re going to throw certain pitches. So just keep doing what we’re doing.”
Anderson plans to use her experience as much in the dugout as in the circle. With Tech starting three freshmen (second baseman Lilly Hooper, leftfielder and leading hitter Cameron Stanford and rightfielder Breanna Roper), bringing in two freshman relievers (Stanford, a righty, and Naomi Dickerson, a lefty), as well as a key pinch-hitter (Skye Webb -- Saige Pye and Bianca Mora also have gotten at-bats), veteran leadership is important.
Emily showed just how serious she takes that leadership role last Saturday in the 8-6, come-from-behind win over Detroit Mercy. Trailing 5-1 after two and still down 6-4 with six outs left, Anderson stepped up vocally between innings.
“I said during the game on Saturday, ‘We’re not going to lose this game. We’re going to figure it out and we’re going to come back and that’s going to be that,’” she said.
Anderson then went out and threw scoreless sixth and seventh innings, holding the deficit at 6-4 and giving the Jackets a chance to come back. They’d plate four in the bottom of the sixth. Roper, Stanford and Pye contributed, as did senior Draven Sonnon, who came up big with an RBI double and junior Katie Krzus, who had a two-run single.
Getting contributions from everyone will be key in coming out of Charlottesville with a series win and playing competitively throughout ACC play.
“We have to play ACCs the same way that we’ve been playing,” Anderson said. “There’s really no difference. It’s just another weekend that we’re playing softball. We’ve been playing since we were four so we just have to keep going out and doing what we do best, playing to our strengths and not the other team’s strengths.”