Ashley Olson likes to control the game.
As the catcher for the Community College of Rhode Island Lady Knights softball team, Olson calls pitches and is involved in every play.
As tri-captain and the college record-holder for most single-season hits and RBIs (runs batted in) and most career hits, she is also one of the strongest softball players in CCRI history.
“It’s been amazing,” Olson said, “But everything I’ve been able to do was because I’ve been surrounded by great teammates.”
Olson, 19, came to the Knights in 2010 after being recruited from Coventry High School. She had a spectacular high school career, making the Rhode Island All-State Team and winning the Division I State Championship in her senior year.
“We had a core group of us that played in middle school so we grew up together and learned the game together, so to go out senior year as state champions was a great feeling,” Olson said.
Olson had offers to play softball for several schools but decided on CCRI because she was unsure of what to study.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to major in so I figured I would come here,” Olson said. “I definitely made the right choice. I met a lot of people here and it was a great experience.”
Olson was successful in both of her CCRI seasons, setting the single-season hit record (62) and RBI (also 62) record as a freshman and making NJCAA Division II Softball Third Team All-American. Her .428 batting average ranks her at 26 nationally for her division.
Olson first started playing slow-pitch softball when she was 6 years old, inspired by her mother who also started playing at a young age. She transitioned to fast-pitch in middle school and switched from shortstop to catcher, sticking with that position ever since.
Olson said she likes the action that a catcher sees – working to strike out every batter and defending runs at home plate – and also the input she has on the conduct of the game. Catchers research opposing batters and note their habits and abilities, and then call pitches using the below-the-glove hand signals that are iconic in baseball and softball.
“At this level at CCRI, I get to call my own pitches and the game is kind of in my hands,” Olson said. “I love that.”
Olson spends time in the dugout between plays reading scorebook entries on upcoming batters. She carefully notes their performance during games.
“If someone gets a good hit I try to remember right away that I don’t want to call that pitch next time,” Olson said.
The Knights softball team ended the 2012 season on May 5 with a narrow loss in the district tournament.
“It was disappointing that our season ended so soon but both teams that won deserve to be [in the national tournament],” Olson said.
Even so, there were plenty of achievements this season. Olson said her fondest memory was of the team’s sophomore day, a special day to honor the second-year players. This was also the day of the regional tournament, and Olson achieved the career hits record while fellow tri-captain Devin Azulay racked up her 200th strikeout.
“A lot of talent has been coming through here in the last few years,” Olson said about the CCRI softball program. “And our coach is phenomenal.”
As Olson leaves CCRI behind for now, she said she will continue to play softball, either at the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College or Gannon University in Pennsylvania. She graduated with a degree in General Studies and a 3.01 GPA and wants to study sports management or physical education to become a coach and physical education instructor. She may even return to CCRI to coach one day.
“I think it would be fun to come back,” Olson said. “I’ve had a great experience here and I want to help others have a good experience as well.”