Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Kelsey Anchors might be the most underrated player in college softball and has developed a great mental approach to the game. She's arguably the best defensive center fielder currently playing. She could also be the best situational hitter in the Big 12. The senior leads the conference in sacrifice hits with 14 and is tied for the most sacrifice flies with five.
A native of Bremerton, Wash., Anchors traveled a long way to attend school and play softball at Oklahoma State. It is roughly 2,000 miles between towns and Anchors said there are many differences.
"There are no mountains, not the same big green trees I'm used to, and the weather is so different," said Anchors. "That was definitely a shocker. In the winter, the snow is bad, but that wind gets you. You walk across the street and try to cover your neck and face, but there's no way to cover it all and you think you're going to get frostbite."
She said her parents have been her support system and have always been there for her. Although so far away, and not getting to attend many games in person, Dusty and Lori have kept up with their daughter for the past four years by watching the games on-line and reading game recaps on the OSU web site.
Anchors has always been a part of the Cowgirls lineup since she was a freshman. She started that season sharing time in right field. After a starting senior suffered a broken foot, Anchors got her chance to start in center field. She has been there almost every game since. She finished the 2009 season hitting .291 with three sacrifice hits, two sacrifice flies, and 11 runs batted in. At the end of the next season her average dropped to .217, but she hit two home runs, tallied 13 RBIs and decreased her strikeout total while increasing her number of walks.
However, during her junior season she hit a wall, mentally. She wasn't producing the offensive numbers she had been. She wasn't producing offensive numbers at all. She remained in the lineup and played in 42 games because of her defensive abilities, but finished the season with a .119 average and just nine hits on the year.
"My junior year was definitely more of a mental thing than anything physical," Anchors said. "In practice I'd be fine and swing the bat the way that would produce numbers. But then in a game it would just go out the window. I would develop the mentality of having to produce and do good instead of just going out there and playing."
Her fellow senior and roommate, Chelsea Garcia, agreed with the diagnosis of Anchors' struggles offensively. "She needed to think less and just play. I never thought it was physical, she's a great player."
"The mental aspect can make or break you," Anchors added. "At that time I felt it was more of a pressure situation instead of just going out there and having fun."
Over the summer of 2011, Anchors watched film and tried to break down her attack at the plate. But she soon realized that it was her attitude that she needed to change, not her swing or mechanics.
"I adopted the mentality of knowing it's my last year and I wanted to turn it around and show people that I can do things at the plate. I can improve my numbers."
That's exactly what she did. So far this season, Anchors has 29 hits, 16 RBIs, five sacrifice flies and 14 sacrifice hits, that's more sacs than her previous three seasons combined. Oklahoma State head coach Rich Wieligman has noticed.
"Kelsey has done a great job in the two-hole offensively, moving runners and making sure she gets runners in from third with less than two outs," Wieligman said. "I think she's always had the skills and now I think it's more of her trusting herself and doing what she can do. This year she relaxed and played."
She is also the only starter on the team to have a perfect fielding percentage. Her teammates say she has an ‘outfield swag'.
"When Kelsey leaves here," Garcia said. "People are going to remember her amazing outfield abilities." Wieligman agreed and said, "People are going to remember her running down those fly balls."
Kelsey Anchors will leave OSU with her name in the career record books as she currently ranks No. 3 in career sacrifice flies. She said she wants to be remembered for her game mentality and attitude.
"I want to be remembered as someone who gave it all every game and gave it 110%. I want to be remembered for making the plays that a lot of people think are impossible to make. It's all about confidence. Anyone can make those plays, you just have to believe in yourself."