BY CHRIS HOOKER, SPORTS EDITOR
If anybody said that freshmen were benchwarmers, nobody told Ashley Cole.
The pitcher has been outstanding in her first few weeks as a Crusader, and she knows that her journey can only go up from here.
“Everyone on our team has to earn their playing time,” said head coach Kathryn Kroupa. “One of the things we’ve seen out of Ashley is a lot of good consistency. It’s been nice to have her as an addition to our pitching staff because I think it makes us that much stronger.”
Cole currently boasts a 4-0 record in seven appearances. She has a 1.03 ERA, along with 49 strikeouts. She’s given up just five runs. And she has only been a Crusader softball player for about three weeks.
“It’s definitely a good feeling to have,” Cole said. “I still have a lot more games to improve myself. So far, though, it’s been good.”
Cole joined an already excellent pitching staff for the Crusaders. Senior Sarah Hoffman and sophomore Morgan Lewis are putting up excellent numbers this year and in years past.
“We have a really good group,” Kroupa said. “Sarah is a senior so she is our upperclassman anchor. Morgan had a really good year for us last year, so we are hoping for the two younger ones to really pick us up, while Sarah is a senior, to be a really consistent batter of pitchers. I think that the three of them work together really well. They complement each other.”
“I think we are going to do really well,” Cole agreed. “We can throw off batters even if we all pitch. Each pitcher brings something different.”
Cole brings a lot to this electric staff.
“I have really good location,” Cole said, when asked about her strengths on the mound. “I feel like I can put the ball wherever I want to. That helps a lot. My speed is nowhere near as fast as Morgan’s, but I have good pitches that move where I want them to move.”
Kroupa agreed that ball movement is where Cole comes in handy.
“She’s very consistent. She places the ball well; she can put it where she needs it. She has really good movement on her pitches.”
To start the year, Cole faced challenges right away. Being put into the starting rotation on the Florida trip allowed her to get a rhythm going as a member of the Crusaders. After the undefeated stretch, she was awarded Landmark Softball Pitcher of the Week.
Not bad for a first year.
Right now, she’s earning the trust of her teammates as that fielding captain.
“I’m excited that they think [highly] of me now,” she said. “I didn’t even pitch that well in Florida. I know I’m capable of a lot better. But now, I showed them something. I’m glad they trust me on the mound.”
“She is a perfectionist, strive-for-the-best type of player,” Kroupa said. “That’s a good thing. That keeps [her] working and progressing forward. She needs to keep working hard, and hopefully, keep pitching better and better as we go through.”
The Crusaders currently stand at 8-2.
After being forced to cancel their home opener against Dickinson thanks to three inches of snow, they are anxious to get started with conference play.
“Our big goal is to win the conference,” Kroupa said. “That’s the only way to guarantee that we are going to NCAA’s, and that is our ultimate goal.”
“I want to win. Everyone talks about how good Moravian is, and I don’t want to hear that anymore. I just want to beat them.”