Late bloomer on the mound


PEMBERVILLE — Tee-ball at 6 or 7 years old was the first time Ashley Hitchcock tried playing softball.

She played soccer for a year, was a basketball player until middle school and played volleyball until she
entered high school.
Sports were more a hobby than an obsession. Hitchcock, an outfielder at the time, rarely played for her
youth travel softball team.
“And then I started pitching when I was 13. I came home and told my parents, I want to pitch,” Hitchcock
said. “I’m just going to do it cause I couldn’t really do much of anything else.
“They were like no, no, no it’s way too much work — I said no I’m going to practice every day, and then I
“Now here I am.”
Hitchcock is on pace to finish her prep career in the top three for career wins and strikeouts in Ohio
high school history.
As she emphasized, Hitchcock began pitching later than most. Two years of work was all she had before
high school.
She had a 0.92 ERA, lost just once and shattered records as an Eagles freshman.
“Where she wins is with her work ethic,” said Joe Wyant, her head softball coach at Eastwood. “This kid
works all the time.”
Hitchcock, who takes one month off from pitching a year, wakes up at 5 a.m. on game days to work out. She
perfects her electrifying rise ball by spinning a hockey puck 100 times a day. Hitchcock and her dad do
a drill they’ve tabbed ‘rapid fire,’ where she will rattle off as many pitches as she can in two minutes
followed by weightlifting session. She repeats that three times.
Hitchcock has lowered her ERA every year since her freshman year and sports a career-low 0.78 ERA through
18 games this season.
Limiting the other team from scoring is just a piece to her dominance.
“When she was a freshman, I worked to change her attitude about pitching,” Wyant said. “Trying to get
strikeouts and not just trying to get people out. She got into that frame of mind, and now she’s upset
if she doesn’t get strikeouts.”
Hitchcock, who will play collegiately at Division I Rutgers University, has 1,207 career strikeouts — one
of 10 Ohio high school pitchers to reach that mark for a career. She has added 221 strikeouts this year,
pitching all 18 games for Eastwood.
“My freshman year was the first year I played on a pretty good travel team, too. I actually started
looking at colleges because before then I was like, oh I’m just an ordinary pitcher. Freshman year I was
like maybe I could actually do this in college, so then I started pushing myself harder,” Hitchcock
She committed to the University of Toledo as a sophomore. But the UT coaching staff headed for Rutgers
after last season.
“It put me in a tight situation. I was pretty fortunate that I got asked to go because there were about
five people in my Toledo class, including me, and I was the only one out of those five that got asked to
A more drastic move happened prior to high school for Hitchcock.
Entering her freshman year of high school, her family moved to the Eastwood school district. Of course
softball was on Hitchcock’s mind.
“I have a batting cage in my barn and then a batting cage in my basement. One of them I pitch in and one
of them I hit in,” she said. “That was probably the first thing we installed the first week we moved
Hitchcock, who writes her goals on a piece of paper and tracks them each week, has also had her own
pitching coach throughout high school. She has traveled as far as Colorado for softball and will be in
California this summer for a tournament.
Nerves have become sparse and she is rarely overmatched.
That wasn’t the case during travel-ball this past summer. After pitching two games earlier in the day,
Hitchcock relieved a teammate in a tournament game against a roster of premier Division I recruits.
“I was really nervous. I went in and struck out six of the seven and I was so amazed, and I have never
been so happy in my life,” she said. “My mom go-pro’s every game, so I still have those videos, and I
literally love watching them.”
Replays are nice, but the present for Hitchcock is good, too. At 92 career wins, she has a chance to be
the fourth Ohio prep pitcher to reach the century mark.
Including the state championship, Eastwood has 16 games left on the schedule. Sixteen wins would make
Hitchcock, along with two others, the winningest pitcher in Ohio high school history.
Ending her prep career with the record doesn’t compare to the trophy.
“Go to state, all the way, that’s the main goal. That was my goal ever since I was freshman,” Hitchcock
said. “That’s been my dream.”

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