May 14, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – If ace Andi Williamson’s right pitching arm is the power that led Marshall to its first NCAA softball regionals appearance, then Ashley Gue is the glue.
Gue is among six Herd seniors who head to Kentucky for Marshall’s first NCAA game in history on Friday night against the 12th-seeded Wildcats (38-18). It’s pretty safe to say that without the fleet center fielder who plays for her hometown school, the Conference USA-champion Herd (35-20) wouldn’t be in the 64-team NCAA bracket.
Gue’s style at the plate, with her speed from the left batter’s box, is without question slap-happy.
Her performance – and life for that matter – are anything but that. She’s a table-setter in plenty of places.
MU coach Shonda Stanton left little doubt that Gue’s growth as a player and team leader has mirrored that of the Herd program in its 20th season.
“It matters tremendously, because of Ashley’s leadership,” said Stanton, in her 14th season at Marshall. “I know people kind of tease her and say she’s a ‘mini-Shonda,’ but she does everything you ask and she wants everybody else to do it the right way.
“When it comes to accountability, she is the leader in that regard, the enforcer when it comes to that, and that’s because she’s always focused. She takes care of her stuff. She’s not going to be distracted by so many other things. She’s been here to get an education and to play ball, and to be sure, get involved.
“She’s deep into everything she likes to do.”
That’s a lot.
Gue, 22, plans to become a doctor. In two months she will travel to observe Dr. Ross Patton – one of the Herd athletic team physicians – working at Hospital Vozandes in Shell, Ecuador. She would have walked at MU graduation last Saturday … except she in was in Tulsa, Okla., helping the Herd to a C-USA Tournament title.
“That was much, much better than walking (at graduation),” Gue said with a grin.
Her major was biomedical sciences, and she minored in chemistry and psychology, and graduated with a 3.48 GPA.
OK, maybe she didn’t always want to be a doctor, although she says some of that desire is rooted in her mother, Aimee, an ER nurse at Cabell Huntington Hospital.
“I guess I was about 4 or 5 when I decided that,” Gue said. “Before that, I wanted to be a grocery bagger at Kroger’s.”
Either way, she’d be living up to her mantra – helping people.
She’s been president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) at Marshall and she’s been involved with the campus Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a Bible study group. In the offseason, the former Cabell Midland High athlete spends Saturdays working with the homeless.
Softball, you ask?
Gue leads the Herd into the regional with a .344 batting average, and 33 stolen bases in 39 attempts. Her .316 career average and 102 runs scored both rank seventh in MU’s two-decade softball history. She’s second with 110 career steals.
“You’re talking about a gal who maximizes her opportunities, and not just as a student-athlete,” said Stanton, who has 451 victories in 15 seasons (one at IUPIU and 14 with Marshall).
The 5-foot-4 Gue batted only .214 as a freshman in 2010. She got only 42 at-bats and got onto the field mostly as a designated runner or pinch-runner … and made the most of it with 24 base thefts. Since then, Gue – an all-conference second team and all-tournament team pick multiple times – has been more than reliable for Stanton’s program.
“I knew coming in there were girls from all over the country who were recruited to play here, and I was a local girl, and being local doesn’t mean anything in that regard,” Gue said. “I was going to have to work to get a spot. I had to prove I wanted to play and could play. I just progressively improved, worked hard to get a starting spot.”
Stanton said projecting Gue into the player she’s become wasn’t a lock.
“She was a heck of an athlete, and you could see the speed and the agility and athleticism,” the Herd coach said. “We moved her around to the left (batter’s box) and slapping…we knew we were going to have to refine that, but no question she is explosive, a strong, little girl.
“Obviously, when you’ve got that speed, 2.78 (seconds to first), you want that on the left side because it’s not going to take the day off. We knew she had skill to be a top-of-the-line difference maker for us. But you don’t know … because of the technical part of the game, the hand-eye coordination …don’t know how someone will progress at the next level because of the pitching.
“We knew she undoubtedly had the skill set and work ethic … what’s improved the most over the years is her technical skill with the slapping, getting a better eye as far as walk-to-strikeout ratio. It’s great to see the strides Ashley has made.”
Gue’s confidence as a player and a person mirrored that of the Herd in last week’s C-USA Tournament, after Marshall had lost in the title game for an NCAA berth a year ago. And in her “it’s what you do for other people” attitude – what Gue has done is help her school to its zenith in the sport.
“You play sports to win,” Gue said, “Every year, our commitment grew, my love of the game grew, and by this season, I felt like there was no way I was going to leave college without a conference championship.
“We were in it last year, so we kind of knew what to expect, with the TV (coverage) and everything, but this was the first year that we really went into the tournament expecting to win … no doubt in our mind. But it was nerve-wracking. A seven-inning game, one inning at a time, one out at a time, one pitch at a time. And then you just try to enjoy the moment.”
For someone with the kind of speed Gue possesses, perhaps it’s appropriate that her college years have seemingly flown by. And she knows that her softball career will only last as long as the Herd stays alive on the college game’s biggest stage, one that starts with a regional at UK that also includes Virginia Tech (35-19) and Notre Dame (43-13).
“Every game, we need to keep pushing, keep winning as long as we can,” she said. “I know that pretty soon, this chapter in my life will come to a close, and I’m going to have a lot of great memories.”
“Getting there” means more than playing in an NCAA for Gue.
“I’ve improved 100 percent, it seems like,” the Herd center fielder said. (The MU coaches) say of when I first got here, ‘We knew you were fast, but what are we going to do with you?’ I had the basic skills, but wasn’t anywhere fully developed to my potential.
“It goes to show how good our coaches are and what hard work and dedication can mean. They took somebody who maybe it was thought would never make it onto the field to play and to be a starter.
“I’ve always been a pretty confident player. But I came in here, and everybody’s good. So, I’m going to have to work extra hard. It’s not like your high school team, where you might be the best player on your team. This is a team full of best players from their high schools, so I knew right off the bat have to work hard. I knew I was capable of it if I put my mind to it.”
In 468 at-bats in her college career, Gue doesn’t have a home run. That doesn’t mean she hasn’t gone deep.
“I knew college athletes before I came here, and getting to meet them, I already knew what kind of difference I could make, and making that difference was really important to me,” Gue said. “What’s important is being able to make a difference in people’s lives.
“Softball’s going to come and go. School’s going to come and go. But what really matters is what we do for other people. And that was my interest coming in and still is, above all else.”