Chelsea Bramlett: More Than Just Speed

Head coach Jay Miller has coached college softball for 25 years in conferences such as the SEC, the Big 12 and in the Big Ten. Miller has also coached on the international level, coaching numerous Olympians in the process. But in all that time Miller has never coached a player as fast as Bulldog rookie second baseman Chelsea Bramlett.

"I have been coaching this game for a lot of years," said Miller. "(Former MSU player) Iyhia McMichael had a lot of speed but Chelsea is faster than anybody, faster than any player I have worked with, and that includes all of our Olympians. She is about 2.3 or 2.35 to first base and McMichael was about 2.45. And from home-to-home she is about 10.4 whereas McMichael was 10.6."

And Bramlett can do more than just run.

The Cordova, Tenn., native leads the Southeastern Conference with 63 hits and 40 stolen bases and is second in the league with 45 runs scored.

Bramlett, who has been tabbed the SEC Freshman of the Week the last two weeks, also ranks fifth in the league with a team-best .425 batting average entering Saturday's home double header against LSU.

So what has been more surprising to Bramlett, her success on the base paths or her success at the plate?

"Probably my stolen bases," said Bramlett. "Getting on base is one thing but taking a base from a catcher is another."

Taking bases from opposing catchers is something Bramlett has done 40 times this season, and only been caught stealing on two occasions.

Bramlett needs just two more base swipes to break McMichael's single-season mark of 41 stolen bases set in 2004 in 65 games.

Bramlett, who has swiped 34 consecutive bases, has stolen her 40 bases in 44 games and still has 14 regular season games left, not including any games in the SEC Tournament and possibly an NCAA Regional berth.

Bramlett starred in high school at First Christian High School, graduating in a small school with around 50 fellow classmates. But prep softball is not where Bramlett fine-tuned her skills.

"I went to a very small high school and graduated with about 50 people," said Bramlett. "But high school is not how I got here. The Lord and my dad made it all pay off for me. Plus, I played Gold Ball in the summer and that's what helped my game a lot.

"Playing Gold Ball is such another level and helps you get ready for college and the SEC. It prepares you for this level."

Despite her solid play in Gold Ball (similar to AAU basketball or American Legion baseball), Bramlett had very humble goals in her initial season at the college level.

Even she didn't expect to have this type of production so early in her Bulldog softball career.

"I really didn't," said Bramlett. "I came into my freshman year just wanting to be a starter. Once I did that, I continued to step up my goals and what I wanted to do. Right now, I am doing a lot better than I thought, especially being in the SEC, the hardest conference around.

"It has surprised me so far. But I just go out there and play my game."

Bramlett and the Bulldogs have captured their last three SEC series, including a 2-1 series win over rival Ole Miss last weekend in Starkville.

The Bulldogs entered Saturday's double header at 27-17 and 9-8 in the league, good enough for third place in the Western Division and the fourth-best mark in the overall league standings.

And it's a team hungry for postseason, something that eluded State last year for the first time under Miller's direction. Miller led State to NCAA Regionals in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

"All we have to do is keep our heads right and keep doing what we are doing and we can go as far as we want to," said Bramlett. "It's just a matter of doing what we are capable of doing."

From her lead-off spot in the lineup, Bramlett has collected one home run and driven in 16 runs.

Last week, Bramlett was 5-of-10 with four walks, four runs scored and six stolen bases. She had an impressive .643 on-base percentage and one of the major factors behind the team's recent success of late - winners of ten of the last 12 games.

And most of the time, a Bramlett infield single or walk can basically turns into a double with no outs.

She admits she doesn't have a complete green light on the base paths, at least not yet.

"Of course I want to steal and I have it in my mind that I can," said Bramlett. "When Coach doesn't steal me I understand and trust him. My main goal when I get to first base is to get home.

"Coach tells me when to steal and when not to, which is fine with me. A lot of times there will be pitch outs and people trying to catch me and Coach is good at deciding when the best time is to steal a base."

But that doesn't exactly mean Miller doesn't take advantage of Bramlett's speed.

"We pretty much run her any time," said Miller matter-of-factly.

Although somewhat got off guard by her early honors, Bramlett isn't about to rest on her laurels. She isn't satisfied with her recent accomplishments and wants more for her team, particularly returning to postseason.

She understands her blessings, and appreciates her 'God-give' talent on the softball diamond.

So she's not about to stop stealing her way around the bases, and likely neither are opposing catchers.

"It's just God-given speed," said Bramlett. "He is the one that gave it to me and I just go out there and use it every day and thank God for my speed every day."


Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at pjones@cdispatch.com.

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