Ashley Thomas is entering her fourth and final year as the softball team’s starting shortstop and she has enjoyed a lot of success over the seasons at Tech. The 2013 ACC Player of the Year has consistently performed well at the plate and in the field, currently hitting .385 with four home runs and six RBIs. She is also on the watch list for the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award.
Thomas describes the ACC Player of the Year Award as the biggest honor she has ever received and credits her teammates for pushing her to perform up to that level.
“My teammates are great,” Thomas said. “Any college athlete can tell you that it’s a struggle sometimes, but if you have great teammates you can push through anything, and they’ve definitely pushed me through the worst, and we’ve been together through the best. They’re a big motivation for me.”
The thought of winning that award never crossed Thomas’s mind as she entered 2013, as she was focused on helping the team succeed.
“It just kind of happened. Going into the season I had goals; I wanted to be more consistent and be a bigger leader on the field,” Thomas said. “But I never thought that I want to be ACC Player of the Year this year; I really just wanted our team to go as far as we’ve ever gone and contribute to that individually.”
Thomas burst onto the scene in 2011, starting 54 games for the Jackets and amassing 43 hits with a batting average of .305. Always a team-first player, she describes how she was just happy to be on the field with an opportunity to make a positive impact on the team.
“Honestly, I guarantee you—any other freshman at a Division I school can tell you—that as long as they’re on the field, they’re happy,” Thomas said. “I was just so happy to be in that dugout with those girls who I learned so much from and being able to contribute on the field somehow, even if I was a freshman. I still felt like I could contribute to the team’s success at the time. It was definitely a good feeling, to have all the hard work you put in during recruitment pay off when you go to a great D1 college and a great academic school as well.”
That year, Tech lost its first game of the ACC Tournament, but the team rebounded the next year to win the whole thing in Chapel Hill in what would become one of Thomas’s proudest softball moments.
“We were just so energized that whole weekend; it was a great environment to be around,” Thomas said. “It’s definitely a moment that I’ll remember forever, just seeing all the girls as ecstatic as they were and jumping around and all of our parents in the stands going crazy for us, and battling through those games.”
This season, Thomas is once again focused on the success of the team. She hopes that they can reclaim their spot as ACC Champions and advance to Regionals, Super Regionals and beyond, and she’s ready to put in the effort to do so.
“A big goal of mine is consistency and being a leader on the field, making sure all the team is on the same page in order for us to get to where we want to be,” Thomas said. “As a senior… I want us to go out giving it our all in what I hope will be our very best year since I’ve been here.”
Now that she is a senior, Thomas feels that the biggest improvements to her game are in her mentality.
“I’ve always been a pretty even-keeled person, but the past few years, my mental game, which anybody can tell you is a big part of softball, has developed dramatically. You don’t sweat the little stuff anymore; it’s all about having a great time with your teammates and winning.”
Thomas aspires to play softball professionally after graduating. As for potentially becoming the National Player of the Year, she says that she is mainly concerned with contributing to the team and making the most of her final year at Tech. Since she hopes to play professionally, winning that award would be a fine addition to her already stellar resume.