Like many others, Jackson senior Ashlyn Prince began her softball career hitting off the tee in little league, but unlike many she will now continue her playing career at the next level.
Prince signed her national letter of intent with St. Louis Community College after finishing as one of the Indians top batters with a .452 batting average, 38 hits, four home runs, 33 total runs and 24 runs batted in.
“It feels pretty awesome being blessed with the opportunity to continue my playing career and also going to a place that has my degree,” Prince said. “Being able to play and get my degree is the best of both worlds. … I’m so excited, and also letting my parents still come and watch me because their life is revolved around softball. Just continuing that for my family is a really big deal for me.”
Prince aspires to be a dental hygienist, so she will be getting her associates degree in dental hygiene. Prince said this is because she likes teeth and even had braces once, which led her to discover how the industry works.
As far as her career on the diamond goes, Prince focused on being a pitcher for the most part, but she suffered a shoulder injury and had to undergo surgery. Prince always played in the outfield while she wasn’t pitching, but her move to first base this year helped show college coaches she can play anywhere they need her.
“Well if they were like, ‘Who can play this position?’ I would be like, ‘I can,’” Prince laughed. “Then hopefully I’ll get some playing wherever, so being versatile is really important to me just so you’re not stuck in one position. You can improve in all positions and be a great all-around athlete.”
Prince also started to focus more on batting after she realized pitching was no longer in the cards, which paid dividends for her because she was able to find her zone and what pitches worked for her.
“I really, really worked on offense instead of defense,” Prince said. “When I pitched, that was just what I focused on, so my hitting wasn’t as good. I really take pride on my hitting.”
As a junior, Prince recorded a batting average of .392 and finished with 29 hits, one home run, 18 RBIs and scored 20 runs.
Prince also finished as one of the team’s top defenders with a 100% fielding percentage in the outfield. At first base this year, she had five errors in 26 games for a .839 fielding percentage.
Aside from starting her playing career at a young age, Prince also saw more innings by being a member of a travel team when she was 12, which is when playing college softball became her dream.
“Whenever I started playing travel ball, I was like, ‘I think I can do this,’” Prince said. “Whenever I did have surgery, I didn’t know if my dream could become a reality anymore. Training and coming back as a player over the summer and regaining my strength I was like, ‘OK, I can do this.’ I thought [the injury] was going to stop me, but I just pushed through.”
Prince still has one more season of high school sports left before playing softball at St. Louis CC since she is a member of the track and field team as a runner.
Prince garnered Class 5 All-State honors last season on the 4×800-relay team as the Indians placed third overall in the race. Prince also helped guide the 4×800 team to win a SEMO Conference and Class 5 District 1 Championship, while winning another conference title as a member of the 4×400 team.
“[Returning to state in track] is another goal for me this year,” Prince said. “I hope I can just finish out my senior year with track, have a fun summer and then start the grind with softball for the next two years.”
Prince will be nearly two hours away from Jackson while attending St. Louis CC, so what she is going to miss the most about Jackson is “having everyone around.”
“I won’t have my best friends just down the road for me,” Prince said. “I have to build a new community with my new sisters.”