Pitcher’s journey from cancelled season to all-conference team


Jonathan Wong

Sophomore pitcher Ashlee Toy. Toy was named Big 8 Pitcher of the Year and first-team all-conference.

Ashlee Toy is always ready to play softball.
Watching the Hawks sophomore pitcher preside over the mound in intense concentration, it’s easy to assume that she’s preparing some intense mental plan.
“There’s not really a routine I do to get my head in the game. I just go out there and play,” said Toy, 19, who’s been playing softball since she was 9.
And yet when Toy was a double threat during her high school senior year, playing both softball and basketball for the Lodi High Flames, she didn’t see softball in her future. She planned to play for Cosumnes River College’s women’s basketball team instead.
“At the time, I was enjoying the fast pace of basketball,” said Toy. “I was also up and down with playing college softball.”
This choice didn’t quite make sense to Head Softball Coach Kristy Schroeder.
“When I heard that she was going to play basketball I was all ‘What are you doing?!'” Schroeder recalls. “‘How can you let go of softball?'”
Schroeder had not only been a friend of the Toy family, but also a travel softball coach and mentor to Toy. She wasn’t going to let Ashlee go without a fight.
“She (Schroeder) did some convincing,” said Toy with a knowing smile.
Schroeder’s tactics worked. Ashlee stuck with softball.
It was a wise choice, said Hawks Assistant Coach Dan Krum.
“Ashlee might be the best pitcher I’ve ever been around coaching-wise,” Krum said. “She’s a really smart kid. She understands the situations that she’s in. She understands what’s going on during the game.”
Toy’s knack of understanding is why Schroeder calls Toy “The Clutch Kid.”
“She thrives in difficult situations,” Schroeder said.
While Toy is good in a pinch, her coaches say she can also be hard on herself.
“Ashlee puts a ton of pressure on herself to be perfect,” Krum said. “Kristy and I constantly remind her to relax and have fun. It’s not on her. It’s not all on her. If we don’t win, we don’t win.”
“She’s tough on herself. All great athletes are,” said Schroeder.
But it’s hard to win when your season’s cut short and you can’t play. Like a lot of high school athletes in the spring of 2020, that’s just what happened to Toy when Covid-19 hit.
“It was very sad. I definitely cried,” said Toy of the pandemic ending her senior year softball season at Lodi High.
It also meant that Toy’s initial first softball season at CRC would be virtual.
“The first time I ever met Ashlee was on Covid zoom calls in the fall of 2020 when everything was on hold,” Krum said. “We were basically on zoom calls once a week, a couple of times a week in the fall of ’20. Kristy was doing her best to keep everyone motivated and keeping everyone wanting to play the game.”
Again, Schroeder’s tactics worked.
“Ashlee’s just had a phenomenal season so far,” Schroeder said.
Toy won “State Pitcher of the Week” from the CCCAA (California Community College Athletics Association) not just once, but twice in 2022.
Receiving the accolade “felt good. It was nice,” Toy said.
Toy has also earned the respect of her teammates who call her “Ashlee Smashlee,” said sophomore first baseman and pitcher Danielle Pfennig, 21.
“She’s always been an amazing person to have on the team,” said Pfennig, who’s played with Toy since they attended Lodi High.
So what does the future hold for Toy?
Toy intends to move on and finish her degree at a four-year-college, major in sports management and coach at the high school or college level.
It’s a plan her coaches fully support.
“I am excited for her. I think it will be great. I think it’s always good to get away a little bit and really see what you’re capable of doing on your own,” said Schroeder. “I just love that kid.”
Whatever the case, Toy’s got one big take-away from the last two years of softball.
“I think that because of Covid I just go out there and have fun ‘cuz you never really know when it’s gonna be your last game,” she said. “That’s what I’ve learned.”