Herald Photo / Dean Hockney
MOVING ON  — Eastern’s Ashlynn Hochstedler plays the field. The varsity Comet will head to Taylor University this fall to continue playing softball.
Herald Photo / Dean Hockney MOVING ON — Eastern’s Ashlynn Hochstedler plays the field. The varsity Comet will head to Taylor University this fall to continue playing softball.
For four years, coaches have come and gone in the Eastern Lady Comets softball program, but one thing has remained a constant – solid play from four-year varsity player Ashlynn Hochstedler. 

Her hard work is paying off as the senior shortstop signed to continue her career this fall at Taylor University in Upland, Ind.

“I want to major in exercise science and then physical therapy, and they had those programs,” she said. “And I really liked the community and the coach. Being a Christian university, that was an environment I wanted. They are not going to tear you down.”

Hochstedler has been a mainstay in the Comets lineup, playing centerfield her freshman season before taking over the shortstop slot. When she looks back at why she loves the game of softball – she also played basketball at Eastern – Hochstedler remembered the success the team had her freshman year.

“My freshman year, we were 21-3 and played in the sectional championship,” she said. “That made me love the game even more. The seed was planted there. 

“I think it is that softball is different every time. In basketball, you run the same plays over and over, but in softball, it is something different every play. You can’t fake a career in softball – you can fake a good day but not a career.”

Following her freshman season, Hall of Fame Coach Jerry Haines retired, and the squad has not found much consistency. Alyssa Richey coached for two seasons (4-44), and Steve Bratcher took over this year.

“This is my third coach in four years, and it has been weird adjusting every year,” Hochstedler admitted. “But we made it through.”

Bratcher understands the frustration of the players and is working to bring the consistency that is needed from its adult leadership.

“The past few years have not been as successful as they have wanted it to be,” said Bratcher, who has also served as an assistant football and basketball coach at Eastern. “I think we will establish some fundamentals and rebuild the tradition of Eastern softball.”

The future Trojan has produced solid numbers the last three seasons, with a .389 average during that span (.415 last year and .394 this year). During her sophomore campaign, she had a career-high 23 hits, and with 13 already this year, she is on pace to break that mark. In 36 plate appearances this season, she only has two strikeouts and has an on-base percentage of .444.

“I didn’t really plan on playing college softball until my freshman year,” said Hochstedler. “(Coach Haines) made it so much fun that I knew it was something that I didn’t want to end.”

Bratcher said his star shortstop has a leadership ability that many of the younger players look up to.

“She is a leader. She has a quiet confidence about her; she is not as vocal as many would think a leader might be, but her example of work ethic is unparalleled,” said Bratcher. “We have 14 underclassmen this year, so we are looking for her to be that leader. She treats every practice like we are playing for a state championship.”

He also thinks Hochstedler will succeed at the next level because of her natural skills and strong work ethic.

“If she continues with her work ethic and drive, she will be a success at Taylor,” he said.