I have played softball since junior high and I continue to enjoy it (unlike the NFL, which I used to watch religiously but now seems like a huge waste of a Sunday afternoon.) The team at Mizzou as three things that make it even more interesting to me:
1. They’re good
2. The star pitcher is from Iowa (Chelsea Thomas, Pleasantville)
3. The best player on the team, Ashley Fleming, is one of my students
So everywhere I’ve lived I’ve watched and/or played some form of softball. Since moving to Columbia I’ve watched a lot of Missouri softball. It didn’t take long to figure out that journalism student Ashley Fleming loves the first pitch. Early each season she swings at a lot of them. It takes her a while to settle down and use her discipline to wait until deeper in the count, making the pitcher work harder.
But today, Ashley was the first batter up in the bottom of the ninth inning of the NCAA regional game against DePaul. Eight scoreless innings had gone by. Ashley, who bats third in the order, popped up to the second baseman in the first inning, had a hard shot for a double in the fourth, flew out to right in the sixth. In this pitching duel, she was “getting the bat on the ball,” as they say.
Ashley leads the team in hitting with a .380 average. Every time she steps up to the plate she’s a threat. So in the bottom of the ninth of a scoreless game, Missouri fans knew good things were possible from Fleming. She did not disappoint. Going with her gut rather than her training, Ashley teed off on the first pitch, sending it deep, past the right field fence, past the fans in the bleachers and onto Gustin golf course.
One pitch. One win. A new career high (16 home runs.)
Way to go, Ashley. No one better to save the day.