by Alan Hieber
After a slow start to the season Wright State softball has been on a roll thanks in part to pitcher Ashley Sharp who has been confident and precise in the circle for the Raiders.
Sharp, a junior sports science major who plans to attend physical therapy school after graduation, choose WSU so her family wouldn't have to travel far for her games, for the coaching staff and the friendly atmosphere around the team.
“When you come to college you want your teammates to be your best friends and family,” Sharp said.
Her freshman season was off to a shaky start record wise when Sharp was 0-7. However she says something clicked when she was tasked with leading the pitching rotation and went 11-5 the rest of the year.
It was former WSU teammate and pitcher Montana Wear who Sharp feels supported and gave her a boost of confidence during her debut season.
“We knew we had each other's backs as pitchers. In college you can't just have one pitcher,” Sharp said. “I think you need to have a staff or at least another pitcher because you can't do it on your own.”
This season Sharp says the bond she had with Wear is now at the same level with Raider pitcher Ally Russell, who went 10-4 last year as a freshman.
“We cheer each other on a lot,” Sharp said. “I feel like having that relationship with her (Russell) is very good instead of budding heads.”
When her sophomore campaign began her talent for pitching was clear, but there was something Sharp wanted to tune in order to step up her game.
“I think the biggest thing that I struggle with still to this day is my mental game,” Sharp said. “Sometimes I feel like doubt can win even if you have skill.”
After working with former WSU coach Lynn Curylo on the mental side of pitching, Sharp was ready to focus on being an ace for the Raiders. She would scorch through lineups on her way to a 21-8 record and 1.72 ERA last season.
Sharp continues to keep her mind on point by reading sports books and sticking to a routine before each pitch.
In the early stages of this season Sharp struggled to be dominant in the circle with a 4-8 record. Since conference play began she has been the type of pitcher batters fear again with a 6-0 Horizon League record.
“It's almost like hitting when you get into a bad slump and it takes one hit for someone to get their confidence back,” Sharp said. “I think having a few good outings has helped me build some confidence to go into the next game thinking, ‘I can do this.'”
The ability Sharp showed to bounce back from a tough start to the season and retain her strong sense of determination is no surprise to WSU coach Justine Wichman.
“I love the saying, ‘plan your work and work your plan,'” Wichman said. “She (Sharp) is a fighter and go getter. When she puts her mind to something and trusts her ability great things will happen.”
The rebound for Sharp culminated last Saturday in a no-hitter against Cleveland State, which was last accomplished by a Raider pitcher when Kim Sycks did it in 1999.
The milestone was the last thing Sharp had on her mind.
“I would go to the bullpen between every inning and throw because I didn't feel like my pitches were good. I didn't even realize it was happening,” Sharp said. “I definitely wouldn't have gotten it without my teammates. They made some great plays.”
Wichman has noticed the personality Sharp brings to pitching that was on display last weekend.
“Her (Sharp) perfectionist personality and work ethic make her a trooper on and off the playing field,” Wichman said. “This is a great tool to have in life.”
Following the no-hitter Sharp made quick transition to starting the second game of a doubleheader and earned another victory after five innings of work. A situation like this does not deter her.
“I feel stronger as I go on in games. The first inning might be a little shaky,” Sharp said. “By the fifth inning I'm my strongest. That helped me because I felt like I was continuing the game instead of starting a new one.”
As Sharp's confidence grows WSU will be a threat to take the Horizon League by storm as the tournament approaches.
“A woman with confidence is a dangerous weapon,” Wichman said.