October 23, 2009
Spencer shines on mound and in the classroom
Known as a dominating pitcher for the nationally ranked Cowley College
softball team, sophomore Ashley Spencer is also a gifted student that
strives to do well athletically and academically.
Spencer’s hard work in the classroom has not gone unnoticed as she was recently named Cowley College’s October Student of the Month.
Spencer, daughter of Anthony and Sonjia Leone, is a elementary education major from Weir, KS. Grandparents are Erma Spencer and the late Merle Spencer of Baxter Springs, and the late Florence and Tony Leone of Weir. She has a sister, Ariel Leone 11.
Spencer has always been strong in the classroom as she was a Kansas Scholars Curriculum recipient at Southeast High School and graduated among the top-10 students in the senior class.
Spencer starred in three sports in high school as she was a first-team all-conference athlete in softball, basketball, and volleyball. She originally wanted to play basketball collegiately, before deciding on softball.
The decision to focus on softball has been a good one for Spencer as she is coming off a dominating freshman campaign with the Cowley College softball team.
As a freshman at Cowley, Spencer nearly went unbeaten as she was 23-0 heading into the NJCAA Division II National Tournament. Spencer suffered her lone defeat at nationals and ended the season with a record of 24-1. Spencer not only led the Tiger pitching staff in wins, she also led the team with an earned run average of 1.20. She has impeccable control as evidenced by her 147 strikeouts and only 25 walks in her 152 innings pitched.
Spencer also proved to be a valuable asset at the plate by batting .356 with four home runs and 23 runs batted in. She was a major reason why the Lady Tiger softball team went unbeaten (18-0) in the Jayhawk East, won the region title, and placed fifth at the national tournament.
She was named the Jayhawk East Freshman of the Year along with being a first-team all-conference and all-region selection. She was also named a second-team National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American.
According to Cowley head softball coach Ed Hargrove, Spencer worked extremely hard to get to where she is.
“Her work ethic is unbelievable, she never questioned anything Suzanne (Unruh) or I asked her to do,” Hargrove said. “She probably made more improvement from the fall to the spring as anybody I have ever coached. She has the same attitude in the classroom, where she wants to be the best and is willing to do what it takes.”
Unsure where she was going to play softball after high school, Spencer decided on Cowley after playing for Hargrove at the Salina Showcase.
“I had every intention of playing for a good team and Ed showed me that Cowley was the “it” school,” Spencer said. “Every JUCO (junior college) in Kansas had called recruiting me but I felt more comfortable with Ed and the college. I knew by going to Cowley I would be able to play at a four-year school after I was done here. I love Ed and Suzanne (Unruh) as coaches and people.”
Along with softball, Spencer is actively involved as a student at Cowley. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the IMPACT Program, a Resident Assistant for Docking Dormitory, a Cowley Tutor, Student Ambassador, and a Cowley Captain.
“The school has been amazing with the softball team, and the teachers and faculty here are great,” Spencer said. “I really like the atmosphere and warmth at Cowley.”
She has continued her academic success at Cowley as she has posted a cumulative 4.0 grade point average. She is humbled to be selected as the school’s October Student of the Month.
“It means a lot to have the teachers and faculty see something in me to be deserving of the award,” Spencer said.
Spencer’s mother, Sonjia, is the one that got her started in softball. Sonjia also was a pitcher collegiately as she was the first pitcher to sign to play softball at Coffeyville Community College.
“I did not want to be a pitcher because my mom was, but I tried it and fell in love with it,” Spencer said. “My mom has always told me I can achieve anything I set my mind to do.”
After experiencing playing at the national tournament as a freshman, Spencer hopes to have another shot at a national championship as a sophomore.
“We have the same goals of winning conference and region and going to nationals again,” Spencer said. “I have no doubt we can do it if we work hard and push ourselves to get better.”
Spencer has several pitches in her repertoire as she throws a fastball, curve ball, changeup, rise ball, screw ball, and drop ball. She has also been working on a back door curve ball in the fall.
“I always set high goals for my pitching and have been working on perfecting certain pitches to make it my go to pitch,” Spencer said.
Outside of Cowley, Spencer works with the Promise Kids group at the First Presbyterian Church. She has also conducted pitching, hitting and catching camps for future softball players and was hired as the new pitching coach for Kansas State University of Salina’s Techno Cat Program, where she will be coaching this next summer.
“I was at a softball coaching camp when I realized I could make an impact on young girls and it just kind of escalated from there,” Spencer said.
In her free time she enjoys watching movies and hanging out with members of the softball team.
After Cowley, Spencer would like to continue playing softball at a NCAA Division I school as she receives her Bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She plans to pursue a Masters in counseling, and would like to coach softball at the collegiate level.
“I think Cowley will be a big stepping stone for me, it has helped me improve as a player and a person,” Spencer said.