Mesa State’s Ashlee Duffy making mark at first base
It’s not like she had to tell her teammates she’s vertically challenged for a first baseman, but Ashlee Duffy had a little advice for the Mesa State College softball team’s infielders.
“I told them, ‘Don’t throw high, I can’t jump. Throw it in the dirt and I’ll be fine.’ ’’ said Duffy, the Mavericks’ junior first baseman who stands all of 5 feet, 5 inches tall (in her cleats, of course).
Duffy, who played at Lamar Community College after graduating from Central High School, was a shortstop growing up. When she returned home, the Mavs had several middle infielders, but were short on someone to record all those outs at first.
“It was a change,” Duffy said, laughing. “I was going to do anything to play, so I was like, ‘Well, they need a first baseman, I’ll be a first baseman.’ ’’
Duffy had an ace in the hole — her younger sister, Mikayla, plays first base when she’s not pitching.
“Every time, she’s like, ‘You shouldn’t have done that,’ or ‘You could have just scaled that fence,’ ’’ Ashlee said. “I have asked her things and she tells me, ‘This is what I do, but it’s probably not right.’ ’’
Duffy wrapped up her career at Lamar as a two-time all-region player and finished ninth in the nation with a .503 batting average last season.
The position change hasn’t come without its challenges, but Duffy is starting to play more on instinct for the Mavericks (9-11, 5-9 RMAC), who host Regis (19-10, 11-3) in doubleheaders today at noon and Sunday at 11 a.m. at Bergman Field.
“She’s got a very strong arm and a good work ethic,” Mesa State coach Kris Mort said. “She’s seeing the whole field (defensively) and is picking up the runners and making decisions for herself and knowing that’s OK.”
She’s hitting .286 with five doubles and three home runs.
“I’m still working on my swing a lot,” Duffy said. “I need to improve on some things. I’m feeling a lot more comfortable now. A new school, new coach, new team… now it’s all routine and it’s all clicking.”
Her little sister came in handy when it came time for Ashlee to pick out a first baseman’s glove.
“I was going to steal hers, but she’s a lefty,” Duffy said.
Mikayla apparently picked out a good one — Ashlee has 106 putouts and five assists. With a sterling 1.000 fielding percentage, her teammates have obviously heeded her “throw it low” advice.
“It took a little while to get used to it, but I like it better,” Duffy said of that big mitt. “It’s bigger and I can catch a lot more.
“You don’t get as many ground balls, so I’m getting used to not fielding so many, but you still have to catch them all.”