Ashton Whiles became a legend while she was a Lady Pioneer. The home-run queen hit balls that may not have landed yet, making her a giant figure on local diamonds.
It’s going to take a little longer than she had hoped to create the same legacy at Cumberland University though.
Like the rest of the sports world, Whiles has been sent home for the spring as NAIA cancelled the rest of the softball season. It was a crushing blow to Whiles as she was in the midst of her freshman season.
“Honestly, it hurts that my season got taken away from me,” said Whiles, who started all nine of her team’s games at third base. “Since the summer, I’ve practiced and conditioned. Throughout my school week, we practiced and did weights. My team and I have been 100 percent in, so it’s hard not to be able to see it pay off.
“I’m just grateful for the time I played with my girls and for coach (Heather) Stanfill.”
Whiles was hitting .276, fourth on the team, when she received word her first season with the Phoenix had been suspended.
It had been a whirlwind first few months in college, where Whiles was already building great bonds.
“I fit in with my team very quickly. I have some of the best teammates. They have always built me up since I’ve come in,” said Whiles. “They have created such a positive environment and I am grateful I get to be a part of it. Coach Stanfill, beside being a great coach, is such an amazing person.”
That warmth and support off the field from her teammates and coaches extended to the field when Whiles was between the lines. Unlike some of her Lady Pioneer teammates who moved to college and moved position, Whiles was right at home at third base once again.
“I still play third, but playing as a freshman on varsity is challenging. With the support of my teammates and coach, I think I will become more acclimated,” said Whiles.
The jump in competition was something Whiles didn’t expect.
Doubleheaders took their toll, demanding her focus for longer periods and extra reserves when the game grinded her down. It all was an eye-opening experience.
“I honestly didn’t expect a difference, but once I started playing I instantly got a reality check. College softball is more demanding physically and emotionally. High school and college are really incomparable,” said Whiles.
One thing didn’t change though. Whiles could always fall back on advice she got from her old coach.
“Warren County softball shaped me in so many ways. One thing never differed through the games, practices and tournaments, coach (Gooby) Martin taught his players not just physical skill, but great work ethic,” said Whiles. “Many times throughout my years with him he would say, ‘do it right or don’t do it at all.’ It applies daily – and not only to athletics.
‘I’ll always be thankful for the years I played at Warren County and for having coach Martin as a coach.”
As for now, While is focusing on the only thing that is under her control. She said she would hit and practice fielding as much as she can.
It’s what she knows best.