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3A GSHL Softball: Prairie’s Ashley Shelton finds her voice

By Andy Buhler, Columbian Staff Writer
Published: March 18, 2019, 3:32pm
3 Photos
Prairie center fielder Ashley Shelton gathers herself after catching a pop fly during an indoor practice in Prairie High School’s gym.
Prairie center fielder Ashley Shelton gathers herself after catching a pop fly during an indoor practice in Prairie High School’s gym. (Andy Buhler/ The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Ashley Shelton has never been the first person on her team to speak up. In fact she typically keeps to herself, both on the softball field and at school.

But in the wake of five key departures to Prairie’s softball team, the four-year varsity player knew she had to make a change. And that change would require her to test the boundaries of her comfort zone.

First, Shelton, a second team all-league selection as a junior, moved over to center field to fill the absence of Kylee Snider, who graduated.

Perhaps more importantly: she was determined to become the Falcons’ vocal leader.

That presented an opportunity Shelton says is empowering.

“I’m not really looked at as a big powerful person,” Shelton said. “So it’s like, OK, I’m controlling this team right now. It’s a lot. It’s empowering. I feel good because I want to be someone that they look up to and I want them to remember me for being a good leader.”

Her coach concurred.

“This year she’s taken it in her head that if we want to be successful, this is what it’s going to take,” Prairie head coach Mariah Dawson said.

Prairie replaces five starters and multiple all-league selections, highlighted by Snider, an All-Region team selection, from a team that turned a third place 3A Greater St. Helens League finish into a second place finish at districts and a state tournament appearance.

Snider’s presence, Shelton said, was far more than her high batting average, or command of center field.

“Being loud, being under control in center field,” Shelton said. “You run the whole field and I have to help the players beside me.

“Definitely stepping into some pretty big shoes, because Kylee was a fantastic player and she’s definitely going to be missed this year, but it’s our time now, so we’ve definitely got to pick it up.”

Dawson said her and Shelton had a brief conversation about leadership before the season, but the senior has really taken the reigns.

Ask Shelton, and that starts with getting the team together for stretches when everyone is standing around and talking. Or weighing in to the group at the end of practices about how things went, and what to improve on.

During games, it’s covering everyone’s blind spots from center field. If it’s a pop fly, she’s yelling “back, back, back,” or “you’re in! You’re in! You’re in!”

Playing center field gives her a unique vantage of the field.

“I want to let them know I’m not here to boss them around,” Shelton said. “I’m here to guide a team to a good finish and that’s what I want. I want to see the best in everybody’s potential.”

Plus, walk down the halls of Prairie High School in the weeks leading up to the season, Shelton says they’re filled with celebratory buzz honoring the girls basketball team’s recent 3A state championship.

She feels that pressure for the spring.

“We’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Shelton said.

Columbian Staff Writer