After a breakout season in Head Coach Pete D’Amour’s first season in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech Softball has received a spark from sophomore speedster Kelsey Brown.
Brown transferred from James Madison this offseason after spending her freshman year in Harrisonburg. She appeared in 44 games with the Dukes and led the team in stolen bases with 10, but decided to move on after one season at JMU.
“I committed in the fall of my junior year and I was looking at Tech, JMU and a few other schools,” Brown said. “I decided to commit to the coach at JMU, but he left and went to Auburn. I gave it a year and gave it a chance, but it just didn’t work out how I wanted it to.”
While attending Battlefield High School in Haymarket, VA, Brown used her speed to make a name for herself across the country. She broke the all-time Virginia high school record for stolen bases in a career with 133, including a state record 45 steals during her junior season.
“With high school, I was just having fun with it and it was cool to be able to do well for my school and with my teammates,” Brown said. “It was a fun four years and I’m happy to be here now.”
D’Amour had heard of Brown during his time at Missouri due to her blazing speed. However, the Tigers never recruited her out of high school. This summer when Brown made the decision to transfer, she called D’Amour and became a Hokie.
“When I first got the job here, I did a camp at Virginia Unity, which is where she played travel ball, and she was there, but I had known Kelsey Brown’s name when I was at Missouri because everybody knew how fast she was; she has elite speed,” D’Amour said. “When she called [about coming here], I was pleasantly surprised.”
When Brown arrived on campus in the fall, she joined the Hokies’ team that had just finished a record-setting season. Tech improved by more than 20 wins from 2018, putting up 47 victories, which ranks fourth in program history. Their 20-win performance in the ACC was good enough for Tech to become regular-season champions for the second time ever.
However, they lost some key pieces, including left fielder Emma Strouth, who hit above .400 last season. Brown transferring in immediately filled that gap and added a consistent bat to the top of the order.
“We had a hole in left field with Emma’s departure and Kelsey filled it. Is she going to hit 20 home runs? No, but she’s going to steal more bases and maybe even hit for a higher average,” D’Amour said. “She’s definitely a welcomed addition.”
Brown earned her spot in the outfield through her performance during the fall. During exhibitions and scrimmages, she dominated and proved that she could be a large piece of this team during the 2020 season.
“She got on base pretty much every time she got to the plate,” D’Amour said. “We keep stats, and I think she hit .600, but not in just 20 at-bats; it was more like 80, and we realized that when she puts the ball on the ground, she’s going to be safe 50 percent of the time.”
The speed that Brown brings to the Hokies is undeniable. Through just 15 games in maroon in orange, she already has tallied 13 steals in 14 attempts. Last year, Maddi Banks led the team with 13 steals for the entire season. When Brown gets on base, she’s a threat to advance on every pitch.
“My dad tries to tell me that my speed comes from him, but I did track in high school for four years and that really helped me work on my speed,” Brown said. “I try and work in the offseason during the fall and winter on getting faster. Especially now, with Coach Kelly, our strength and conditioning coach, I’ve definitely gotten faster and stronger because of her.”
Although her speed is her trademark tool, Brown is a consistent hitter at the top of the order. She put up ten hits in 18 at-bats during her first weekend with Virginia Tech at the Kickin’ Chicken Classic, and she has a hit in 12 of 15 games so far.
“It was cool to prove to myself that I am capable of doing well at the college level,” Brown said. “It was nice to be able to help my team out and get on base. I started off hot, and I hope that I can continue that throughout the season.”
After falling short in the postseason last year, the Hokies needed to add a new dimension to the team. Brown’s speed and consistent hitting in the leadoff spot could be what the team needs to take the next step.
“Everyone contributes to the team and we’re really good,” Brown said. “The hitters, the pitchers and defensively, we all do our job and I know that if we continue to do that, we’re going to do well this season.”