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Versatile Ashby succeeds on and off the field

All Stanford student-athletes are inherently very versatile people, as they must consistently meet the rigorous demands associated with both their Stanford educations and their athletic careers. However, after having spent the last three years around the Stanford softball program, it is clear to me that Erin Ashby takes such versatility to a new level. As a two-year starter for the Cardinal, Ashby has been called upon to play at catcher, second base, first base, hit in the designated player spot and even pitch in the circle.

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Junior Erin Ashby (above) has played five positions over her three years as a member of Stanford’s softball team. After her senior year of high school in which she hit .636 with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs, she was named an All-American. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

In addition to her unique ability to serve in multiple different roles on the field, Ashby has also been able to adeptly manage her academic and extracurricular commitments off the diamond, all the while maintaining her humility and kind-hearted nature.

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Softball

Since she was young, Ashby has achieved a tremendous amount of success on the softball field. Growing up in Southern California, she played club softball for the So Cal Athletics, one of the most decorated softball clubs in the country. As one of the star players on her travel-ball squad, Ashby helped the Athletics win back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011. Reflecting on her club softball experience, Ashby noted that her time with the Athletics had a huge impact on her development as a softball player.

Ashby was also grateful for her parents’ sacrifices that allowed her to play at such an elite level of softball. “[Club softball] is a huge time commitment as a family,” she said. “My parents have invested a lot of time and effort into making me into the player that I am [today].”

With her parents’ support, Ashby also shined playing softball for her high school, Crescenta Valley High. Ashby was a four-time letter winner in high school, while also winning the All-Area Player of the Year Award in two consecutive seasons. Finally, after her senior season in high school in 2011, Ashby was named an All-American in recognition of a campaign in which she hit .636 with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs, notching a 1.159 slugging percentage.

After graduating from Crescenta Valley High and arriving on the Farm in 2011, Ashby spent her true freshman season serving largely as a pinch-hitter, playing in 18 games during the Cardinal’s 2012 campaign. While Ashby may have received limited playing time as a freshman, she emerged last season as an essential full-time starter when she was called upon to play at first base, catch and hit in the designated player’s spot over the course of 58 games.

Ashby certainly made the most of her opportunities in 2013, finishing the season with a .291 batting average and 35 RBIs, good for fourth on the team. Ashby also recorded 15 multi-hit games and nine multi-RBI games while blasting six home runs and slugging .479, which was Stanford’s third-best slugging percentage last season. More importantly, she played some of her best softball last year when it mattered most for the Cardinal, namely during the team’s appearance at the Lincoln Regional in the NCAA tournament.

Another defining moment for Ashby last season came during a three-game set at Cal, a series that Ashby described as her favorite team moment from her three years on the Farm. In helping to pace the Cardinal to its first ever sweep of Cal, Ashby batted .333 with five RBIs, three walks, two runs scored and a towering home run to left field.

“Beating your rival school is always an awesome feeling, but we gave them no mercy,” Ashby said, referring to how the Cardinal outscored its rivals in Berkeley 37-12 over the three games.

This season, Ashby has started 15 of the Cardinal’s 17 games, notching nine RBIs and four extra-base hits over 42 at-bats. She has also continued to deliver with runners in scoring position, posting a .313 batting average in such situations.

Asked about her experience as a Stanford student-athlete, Ashby cited the importance of time management.

“[Being a student-athlete] is a grind. Any student-athlete would tell you that,” she said. “You practice hours on end, and you still have to keep up academically while making up any time and classes that you miss.”

However, Ashby also pointed to team camaraderie as one of biggest positives of her athletic experience at Stanford.

“We have good dancers on the team, and we have not so good dancers on the team,” Ashby said with a laugh. “Dancing is definitely fun, because we can all laugh, make light of our quirks, and have a good time.”

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School

In addition to her accomplishments on the field, Ashby has also excelled in the classroom as a communications major.

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Ashby hit .291 and slugged .479 in the Cardinal’s 2013 campaign, with six home runs and 35 RBIs. So far this season, she’s started 15 of the team’s first 17 games and has posted a .313 batting average with runners in scoring position. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

“I love my comm classes,” she said. “The communications department at Stanford is unbelievable, and the material is really relatable to life.”

Asked what her favorite course has been at Stanford, Ashby surprised me when answered with her winter and

spring quarters’ Introduction to Humanities (IHUM) class, Epic Journeys, Modern Quests. Beyond my initial shock that Ashby was an “IHUM kid,” her care for the subject matter was evident when our conversation turned to Dante’s “Inferno.”

“The readings that we chose and the topics that we talked about [in IHUM] were so incredibly fascinating,” she said. “There is so much depth and sophistication in [Dante’s] writing that it was a real interesting read.”

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Life at Stanford

On top of her work in the classroom and on the softball field, Ashby is also a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority and serves as its Licensing Chair. This year, in addition to her obligations associated with a leadership position in her sorority, she has managed to balance a full course load with her athletic endeavors. Ashby said that the key to balancing her responsibilities is establishing her priorities and getting things done, adding, “the best thing about my sorority is a lot of the [other members] are my close friends, so we will make time to see each other.”

A particularly meaningful part of Ashby and her sisters’ experiences in Tri-Delt has been the sorority’s support of the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, a world-renowned medical facility that provides care to children battling cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Along with the multiple fundraisers that Tri-Delt hosts in support of St. Jude each year, including the upcoming Stacks for St. Jude breakfast, Ashby also pointed to the cards and bracelets that the sorority sends to St. Jude’s patients as something that is incredibly special to her and her fellow Tri-Delt sisters.

“The cards or crafts or bracelets…have more of an impact [than raising money] for us because it is something that the child will receive besides care,” she said. “It is something personal that is filled with love and meant for each child that is going through a difficult time.”

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“Footprints on the moon”

One of Ashby’s favorite quotes is, “Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”

To her, the quote reflects that “there are no limitations on what you are able to accomplish, regardless of what people tell you. It is about going after what you want, and knowing that you can get to that next step or level or accomplish whatever it may be.”

In turn, it echoes Ashby’s journey both as a softball player and a person — she has already made many of her dreams a reality due to her hard work, dedication and selflessness.

In reflecting on her college experience, Ashby said, “I am thankful for everything that I have gone through, both good and bad, and anywhere in between. We don’t know where we are going to go and what we are going to go through, but [college] helps us all find ourselves.”

Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About David Cohn

David Cohn is a senior staff writer for Stanford football and softball, as well as an assistant editor of staff development. David is a junior biology major from Poway, Calif. who also covers football and softball for KZSU Stanford 90.1 FM as the lead play-by-play announcer for both sports.