Rocky's Ashley Peters
Becoming the workhorse: During the regular season, Rock Island head coach Chris Allison split the pitching duties between Ashley Peters and Lauryn Stegall. The duo helped lead the Rocks to a Western Big Six title and 25 wins at the end of the regular season.
Once the postseason hit, the Rocks relied on Peters to carry the load.
Did she ever.
Peters went 7-0 and allowed just six runs and six walks as the Rocks won their first Class 4A state softball championship.
"I don't think I really had a lot of pressure on me because I knew my team would always have my back," Peters said. "I just tried to ignore everything else that was going on and just focus on my game and my pitches."
Perhaps Peters' best game came in the sectional championship against Edwardsville.
The junior left-hander pitched all 11 innings in the Rocks' 4-3 win, allowing just one hit and two base runners in extra innings.
"I would honestly say that was one of our toughest games of the season," Peters said. "I think, going out there for 11 innings, I knew my team had my back and we were going to pull through eventually.
"I think that game was a big eye-opener for us. ... After that game, people really started to realize that we could do it."
Another level: Peters earned first team all-state honors this year after going 21-4 with a 1.00 ERA and 213 strikeouts. It was another step of progression after a strong sophomore season that saw her post an identical ERA but only 84 strikeouts.
"I think my rise ball helped me a lot," she said. "That was a big key thing this year and I also picked up some speed so I think that helped me a lot too."
Peters wasn't a slouch at the plate, hitting .488 with 14 doubles, three triples, two home runs and 29 RBIs.
Peters, who is committed to play at Purdue, is helped by her mother Debbie, who is the pitching coach for Rock Island.
"It's actually nice to have my mom as a coach. We work really, really well together," Peters said. "It's nice for her to call pitches because she knows what I can throw and she knows the game really well herself."
High expectations: The Rocks are well-poised to defend their state championship, losing just one senior from their starting lineup.
"I think people are going to expect a lot out of us next year but nothing is easy," Peters said. "We still have to work hard."
Perhaps the biggest benefit for the Rocks is knowing what to expect, and Peters said she learned even more about herself as a pitcher during the state title run.
"I think getting in the postseason, I realized how important it was to hit my spots and as we got farther, I think it made me stronger as a pitcher," she said. "It was a really big eye-opener for me because I never thought I could carry my team that far."
Still, winning the first one hasn't yet lost its luster.
"I think it means a lot to us players and our coaches and to our community because it’s the first time we’ve ever gone that far," Peters said. "I think it was really big, not just for our team but for our community."
— Compiled by Bobby Metcalf