On the Rise
Feb. 10, 2005
by Kortney Kinzer
Ashley Boek's moment to shine came in mid-March of the 2004 season. Having shared pitching duties with senior Tia Bollinger for the previous two and a half seasons, Boek found herself thrust into the spotlight on Mar. 18, when an injury forced Bollinger to the bench for most of the next four weeks.
As the only healthy pitcher on the team's roster, the junior Boek knew that the Huskies' fate in the always-tough Pac-10 conference rested largely on her shoulders.
'When I heard that Tia was injured I got this sense of urgency,' says the Redding, Calif., native. 'I felt like I had to do everything right. Before, if I was struggling in a game there was always someone there to back me up. Now I just felt this urgency that I had to get it done because there wasn't anyone else to do it. I didn't want to let the team down.'
With no relief pitcher, and without an experienced pitching coach, Boek guided the Huskies back to the Women's College World Series, winning 17 of 28 starts between Mar. 19, the day after Bollinger's injury, and the end of the season on May 29. Boek was the pitcher of record in 35 of UW's last 41 games, including a season-sweep of eventual national-champion UCLA, and four-straight wins in the NCAA Regional tournament.
Ironically, Boek feels that having a coach, Scott Centala, who had not played softball in college and thus was not an expert in fastpitch mechanics, helped her to develop other aspects of her game.
'Scott didn't play softball so he didn't know the fundamentals,' she says. 'Instead, we had to take a more mental approach to the game. I think that allowed me to gain that mental coaching and develop more of a mental game. That was a real bonus.'
Now a senior, Boek again finds the weight of the team on her shoulders, though she will have help in the form of Eastlake High School grad Caitlin Noble. Boek also has a full-time pitching coach, former Husky Eve Gaw, with whom she has been working to develop new pitches and add some finesse.
Gaw and first-year head coach Heather Tarr have been impressed by what they've seen so far from the hard-working pitcher.
'Ashley has been a workhorse for this program,' says Tarr. 'Last year was a testament to what is in Ashley Boek.'
Boek's teammates are also quick to credit the senior's work ethic, especially reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year Kristen Rivera, who has worked closely with Boek in her role as the Huskies' starting catcher.
'Ashley is definitely a perfectionist,' says Rivera. 'Her demeanor on the mound, the way she wants to win -- if she doesn't do something right, she will work on it until she does. All of that just makes her a great pitcher and a great person.'
For the senior Boek, the sense of urgency this season is even greater than it was in 2004. Not only is she tasked with guiding the Huskies back to the World Series for the eighth time in the last 10 years, she must also complete her degree in psychology, and prepare for life after college.
'After graduation I want to take a year off and get some work experience before applying to graduate school,' says Boek, who carries a 3.26 GPA at UW. 'This summer I am going to play softball for a team in Europe, but I am not going to make softball my main focus.'
Boek will travel to Europe this summer, but before that, there's a World Series date in Oklahoma that she and her teammates intend to keep. Should they make it, all eyes will once again turn to Boek, who's proven to have no trouble pitching in the spotlight.
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