PLAINFIELD, Ind. – Here’s how good Plainfield’s Ashton Slone is, how humble she is. She’s in the national softball record books, and she doesn’t even know it.
She doesn’t know she’s gotten a base hit in 38 consecutive games. That’s an IHSAA record, and the fourth-longest softball hitting streak in the country. Ever.
The last time she didn’t get a hit was as a sophomore. She went 0-for-3 on May 25, 2015 against Avon.
Here’s what else she doesn’t know. She’s the best hitter in the nation this season.
According to MaxPreps, no player in the country has a higher batting average than her .806 mark.
Softball is a game of failure. Even the best players fail more often than not. Don’t tell that to Slone.
In six games last week, Slone put up video game-type numbers. She collected 16 hits in 17 at-bats, hit five home runs, three triples and drove in 12 runs.
Slone is too humble to talk about the absurdity of what she’s accomplishing. She attributes it to the level of competition she faces in travel ball, to her hitting coach, to her parents, to her teammates — anyone but herself.
“I just go out there and have fun,” she said. “Whatever happens happens.”
Her teammates aren’t hesitant to marvel at what they’re witnessing.
“It’s amazing to watch her go up there and swing the bat,” said Taylor Dykins, who has played with Slone since they were 10 years old. “She gives it all she has. If it goes over the fence, it goes over the fence. I have all the confidence in her. I know she’s going to get a hit when she goes up there.”
It’s been a gradual building process for the Miami (Ohio) University commit. She batted .366 during her freshman season, .477 as a sophomore and .547 last year. She’s struck out just 31 times in 347 career plate appearances.
Her power surged last year, as she hit 13 home runs in 24 games to lead the state. She’s on pace to surpass that total comfortably this season.
Here’s what she alludes to but doesn’t mention, and what her teammates and her coach are more than willing to say: She outworks everybody.
“She’s worked so hard to get to where she is,” Plainfield coach Jamie Lydick said. “She deserves every bit of her success.”
Adds Dykins: “She’s put more work into this game than anyone on this team. More work in the weight room, more work in the cage, more work on the tees. She deserves everything she’s getting out of this game.”
Slone knows she might only get one or two good pitches to see in a game. Most of them will be away. In the past, she struggled with the outside pitch. So she worked on it before this season started.
“We thought this year they were going to throw her outside, outside outside,” Dykins said. “We didn’t know how it was going to go.”
Her numbers suggest it’s going just fine.
Slone knows there are adjustments she will have to make at the next level. Miami has been her dream school since seventh grade, and she committed as a sophomore.
“When you get to the college level, the pitching and the speed of the game changes,” said Lydick, the first-year Quakers coach. “You have to play more heads-up.”
Finding a position for Slone could also be a challenge. She plays first base and catcher for Plainfield, but might have to learn the outfield in college. But Lydick knows this:
“If she’s hitting the way she is now, they’ll find a spot for her,” she said.
Slone is quiet and reserved, but draws the respect of her teammates. Shelby Baker, a senior for Plainfield, calls her the “team mom.”
“You can go to her for anything,” Baker said. “If you have a problem, you go to her and she’ll tell you what to do.”
Baker might have one of the most unenviable positions on the team: She bats cleanup. Right behind Slone.
“Sometimes it’s rough when she hits home runs and nobody’s on base and you’re basically starting over,” Baker said. “It’s fun to stand out there and watch her. I can’t remember a time she hasn’t gotten on base or pulled through.
“Every time she hits a home run, it’s great to pick up her bat and be the first one at home plate to welcome her.”
There’s not much Lydick can teach Slone to make her a better softball player. So she teaches her how to make others better. Slone stays after practice to work with teammates who are struggling. She’ll offer advice and encouragement.
“These girls look up to her so much,” Lydick said.
But they might not fully recognize what they’re watching until she’s gone. And she might not ever realize what she’s doing.