Bearcat of the week: first-year softball pitcher Ashley Medina
For first-year Ashley Medina, softball has always been a family affair. She started playing softball when she was 12 years old, wanting to get involved with the sport that her younger brothers had been playing.
“My brothers have been playing since they were three years old, but I just started late…[My family] were like ‘women can also play softball’ so I got really into it when they told me that women were also allowed to play... I would go to [practice] sessions with uncles and cousins and it would be a whole family thing.” This led to a pitching career that wound through Otay Ranch High School, Baja California and eventually to Willamette University.
Coming out of high school, Medina originally committed to a Division I school in Illinois, but a last-minute falling out led her to decommit over the summer. First-year Brianna Majors, who had played with Medina on a travel team in San Diego and was committed to WU, encouraged former WU softball head coach Damien Williams to recruit Medina. Since Medina wants to go into nursing, she eventually did commit to WU (which competes at the Division III level) because of its academic opportunities. It has been worth it so far for Medina; she enjoys the academic support and the friendships she has been able to make at a small institution.
The transition to college athletics is always difficult, and for Medina it is no different. Academically, time management has become a lot more real for her. “It was really a big challenge for me, just getting used to the whole college thing... Time management is real when you get to college. It’s not the same as high school. With practice and everything, it’s a big shift.”
Athletically, the other student-athletes in the conference are a lot more competitive. “All the colleges in the conference are competitive... These [athletes] really want it, but like I want it more.”
Additionally, the transition was made uncertain for the softball team as a whole because of a last-minute change in head coach in January 2020. The change was sudden, and when head coach Paige Hall came in she wanted to create a new culture. This made the future very uncertain for Medina, and she felt like she had to prove herself again to a new coach. “She didn’t know the team, and I was worried that she was going to get a different perspective of me [than Williams]... I feel that made me want to work harder when she came in.”
However, the experience has been rewarding for Medina. As a woman and a former softball player, Hall relates to the softball players and knows what it takes to win at this level. Hall was a pitcher, so she has improved Medina’s mechanics and self-confidence. “She’s brought me a lot of trust in my pitching, and a lot more self-confidence. [She] talks to me and helps with my mechanics every single practice.”
Medina also relies on her teammates for support, self-confidence and academics. Medina is a biology major and she receives a lot of help from older biology majors on the team. Hall implemented another layer of teammate support by assigning accountability partners. Medina’s is senior Jocelyn Glasgo, whom she turns to on the field and off-the-field. Glasgo helps steady Medina by reflecting on games and by talking about what they are going to work on throughout the week.
To prepare for a game, Medina starts mentally preparing herself the day before. She does this through self-motivation and saying things to herself. Medina often pitches the full game whether or not she is pitching well. She receives a lot of support from teammates to keep her going throughout the game.
“When I’m struggling in the game, [my teammates] come up to me and they’re like, ‘You’re fine, you’re the best one out here, believe in yourself, you can do this.’ And that motivates me. If I’m going through a bump in the game, they help me get through it.” The coaches are there too: “[When] I come in from the inning, my coaches are the first ones to come around me, [they tell me] ‘You’re doing good, you’re doing fine.’ That is really, really helpful for me, even if I’m tired.”
All of Medina’s hard work and the support she has recieved has paid off through the early season so far. Medina has thrown the second-most strikeouts in the Northwest so far, with 30 K’s. Stats like these validate Medina: “They are so motivating to me, because it’s showing all the hard work that I went through before coming here is paying off. And all the hard work that I’m doing here is paying off. Even though I break down sometimes and I can be down on myself, just seeing my team trust me is really motivating to me.”