Ready for the challenge

By Kevin Eckleberry

July 2, 2014

He’s ready for the challenge.

For the past decade, Ashley Summerlin has been an assistant baseball coach at Callaway High School.

Now, he’s set to take on a new responsibility.

With the departure of Nick Drescher, Summerlin has been named the new head softball coach at Callaway.

Summerlin has been working with the players since taking over last month, and he’ll lead the Lady Cavaliers on to the field when they kick off a new season in August.

“It is something new. I was as shocked as anybody when the opportunity came available,” Summerlin said. “I never would have thought it in a million years. But I think I’m ready to be a head coach.”

Summerlin has been a key part of the baseball coaching staff, and he has helped the team enjoy a lot of success over the past decade.

This past season, Callaway won a region championship and made it to the state quarterfinals.

“We’ll pitch it as good as we can, and we’re going to work on our defense as much as we can. We’re going to excel in those aspects of the game, and we’re going to run the bases,” Summerlin said. “We’re going to bring the model from baseball to the softball field. It’s worked good for us there, and we’re going to see how the girls respond to it. I think they’ll respond well.”

While softball and baseball do have differences, Summerlin believes the basic tenets of the game are the same.

“There are little differences, the way you take your lead at first base, you might cover a bunt different. You’re going to do some things different,” Summerlin said. “The speed of the game is a lot different from baseball with the shortened base paths. But the principles are the same. Whoever pitches and throws and catches the best, is the team that is probably going to win, just like baseball.”

Summerlin has had a chance to get to know the players this summer.

The team has gotten together a couple of times each week, and Summerlin said that time has been well-spent.

“We’ve had six practices. We went on Mondays and Wednesday for about an hour and a half, just so I could learn names, and kind of get a picture of how many girls we were going to have,” Summerlin said. “It’s going good right now.”

Summerlin added that “from Day 1, they’re a totally different group of girls than they were the first day. But they’ve got a ways to go, and they know that.”

Summerlin has a gifted group of returnees to help him with the transition, including rising junior Brittany Mitchell, an all-region player her first two years in the program.

Mitchell, the team’s number one pitcher, hasn’t been able to spend much time with the high-school team this summer because of her travel-ball responsibilities.

“I haven’t seen her a lot this summer, but it’s not like she’s not playing,” Summerlin said. “She plays all the time.”

Also back is senior Claudia Massey, who has been a huge help this summer according to Summerlin.

“There are some girls that are there. Claudia is one who has been there,” Summerlin said. “She has been very vocal. As of right now, she has been the leader of our team.”