Rock Island's Ashley Peters
Career development: Despite her pitching ability, Rock Island softball coach Chris Allison didn’t immediately give Ashley Peters the keys to the car when she stepped into the program as a freshman.
It wasn’t until her sophomore season that Peters was driving the Rocks’ pitching staff.
“That helped me a lot,” Peters said. “Coming in my freshman year, nothing was handed to me. It made me work for my position. So when it did become my time, I was ready to roll and be a leader in that position. I was able to watch other girls do it in previous years.”
Peters said the biggest growth spurt happened between her sophomore and junior seasons. She described herself as "standoffish and quiet" as a freshman.
It led to a first team all-state honors and pitching Rock Island to its first state championship.
“All four years at Rocky with coach Allison, I will remember that,” she said. “It was a good time with the girls every year.”
Peters, a southpaw, did it in the circle and at the plate for the Rocks in her senior season. She was 20-3 with a 1.58 ERA and 184 strikeouts. In the box, she batted a team-best .553 with 18 extra-base hits and 33 RBIs.
The season featured a perfect run through the Western Big Six Conference. It did end with a sectional semifinal loss to Moline.
Never strike three: Peters accumulated a lot of impressive statistics and accolades during her career. She was a first team all-state selection twice by the Illinois Coaches Association, a three-time all-Big Six performer and struck out nearly 500 hitters the past three seasons.
One of the most impressive feats came this spring. Peters never struck out in 114 at-bats.
“Honestly, I didn’t realize that until the end of the year when that came out,” she said. “I was very surprised. It is probably one of the most satisfying stats to me from the year.
“In previous years, I focused a lot on pitching. In my senior year, I really tried to balance both. I was more patient at the plate.
"I haven’t always had confidence in myself at the plate, but after my junior year I knew I could be a hitter.”
Peters believes her approach at the plate was a big reason for no strikeouts.
“I like to attack pitches early in the count,” she said.
Purdue-bound: Peters will move to West LaFayette, Indiana, next Tuesday to begin her academic and softball career with the Boilermakers.
Her goal is to have an impact in her first season at Purdue, a program coming off a 34-29 season but 6-17 in Big Ten play. The Boilermakers return one of their top two pitchers in right-hander Sydney Bates.
“I believe if I work hard enough, I will get pitching time my freshman year,” Peters said.
Peters recently played for the Iowa Premier FP Gold 18U squad that won a national championship in Huntington Beach, California.
“Obviously, I’m a lot closer with the girls on my high school team, but it was nice winning it,” she said. “It was my last hurrah with travel ball, something I’ve done since I was 7 years old.”
Like any player transitioning from high school to college, Peters understands there will be a learning curve this fall.
“The biggest thing at that level is hitting your spots,” she said. “It is a pitcher’s game. I’m really going to have to focus on doing the little things right.”
— Compiled by Matt Coss