Ashton Leads SIU Softball

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By WSIL Sports

CARBONDALE -- Laying down a sacrifice bunt isn't something that gets a lot of attention from fans but for Carterville native Kelsea Ashton, it may be the most important part of her game.

"That's why I'm in the number two hole," the junior third baseman said. "That's my job and so I just try to get my bunts down, move runners."

Ashton not only led her team with 23 sac hits last year, she led the nation.

"I take pride in it and it means a lot my coaches respect me and people have faith in me to get it done," Ashton said.

"She is very, very confident on the field," SIU head softball coach Kerri Blaylock said. "She's a leader, she makes the right decisions."

As a sophomore, Kelsea started all 56 games at third base. Much different than her freshman season, where she only saw limited action.

"It was hard my freshman year but I just worked really hard and came back and was so glad to be a part of the team and contribute," Ashton added.

"She knows what she has to do, and she's got to do her role," Blaylock said. "And that's what I think is pretty cool about this team, they all have roles."

Ashton and the Salukis won 36 games on their way to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament title game last year. SIU lost to Illinois State in the finals and failed to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large team.

"It kind of made us hungrier for this year. You know we don't want that to happen again, so we're preparing and making sure it won't happen again."

The Salukis should have a good shot at making another deep run. They return seven starters and all three pitchers from a year ago, something Blaylock is happy to see.

"You know, we're just a year older," the longtime Saluki coach said. "We had a really good team last year but again, we were so young on the mound we would kind of go up and down at times."

As for Ashton, she's excited to have another opportunity to play, even if it means laying down a sacrifice bunt for her team's benefit.
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