Ash earns accolade

From the ashes Junior pitcher Brett Ash has compiled a 4-4 record this season with an ERA of 3.32. Last season, Ash had a 3.99 ERA with a 7-5 record.

Chris Marshall

In today’s world of networking, there are varying levels of how closely one follows something.

Follow a person on Twitter and you get 140-character updates on their lives. Check their Facebook and you can see their favorite movies, books and shows.

However, it’s impossible to fully communicate without seeing one another in person. As a senior at Washburn Rural High School, Brett Ash commited to play baseball at Washburn.

Some recruits might look at their future school’s scores in the paper, others might go as far as to read game recaps online. But for players like Ash, who grew up in Topeka and was just a short drive from WU’s Falley Field, it became a habit to come watch in person, sitting in the stands and getting a true feel for what things would be like over the next four years.

Just over a month into his freshman season, Ash’s relationship with WU is blossoming, and it’s fair to say that neither side is clicking the “It’s complicated” box.

“It’s a great environment,” Ash said. “There’s a lot of people here with experience that can help you get through things on the field. The coaches have been a big help and we’ve got a good group of pitchers that are experienced and can tell you what to do in different situations.”

The team’s newest starting pitcher has won his last two games to even his record at 2-2 and lower his ERA to 3.47. Twenty games into the season, Ash has already solidified himself as a reliable starter. After pitching seven innings with seven strikeouts and allowing just one run against Truman State on March 15, Ash earned MIAA Pitcher of the Week honors just three starts into his college career.

“It’s very nice to see him get that award,” said senior Wes Joy. “He’s been pitching well all season. It’s good that he could come in and fill that role as starting pitcher for us so early.”

Although Ash gives credit to WU’s coaching staff and the team’s 13 upperclassmen pitchers for helping him get off to a fast start this season, he said keeping track of the team through high school helped as well.

“I’ve been following the team for a few years now,” Ash said. “Growing up in the community and being here all through high school, I was able to go to quite a few games and get a feel for the team before I even got to college.”

Familiarity with teammates is a key part of contributing as a freshman, but even more important is making the transition on the field. Ash not only earned all-city honors for baseball at Washburn Rural, but was also a second team all-city selection in basketball. Several multi-sport athletes need a year or two to get used to college-level competitions, but so far, that hasn’t been the case for Ash.

“You can’t just throw it by anybody anymore,” Ash said. “You have to be able to locate it where you want because if you make a mistake, they’ll make you pay for it. It’s helped to talk to the guys about game situations. Even when the season first started I already felt mentally prepared to play at this level.”

The team has benefited from Ash’s addition to the rotation, as well. One week after his Pitcher of the Week recognition, the biology/pre-med major logged another quality start, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing a pair of runs against Missouri Southern on March 26.

The Bods went on to win 3-2 and improve to 12-5 on the season, with an 11-4 record in the MIAA. Since Ash’s last start, WU suffered its first three-game losing streak of the season, but with Dustin Holthaus (2.45 ERA through five starts), Raul Guevara (2.33 ERA in two starts) and several other capable pitchers in the Bods’ bullpen, the team has a rotation that is deep enough to prevent any losing streak from dragging out too long.

“It’s very nice to have that depth at pitcher this year,” Joy said. “We have veteran pitchers who have been around before and Brett only adds to that. I like the way he pitches, he’s not afraid to go after guys and intimidate them in the box. That’s the kind of mindset I like pitchers to have and I think it’s going to work out well for him and for the team.”