Softball

Portage's Ashby moves from center field to shortstop this season

2011-03-31T00:00:00Z 2011-04-01T02:00:01Z Portage's Ashby moves from center field to shortstop this seasonBy Jim Hunsley jim.hunsley@nwi.com, (219) 548-4356 nwitimes.com

Outfield has been the comfort zone for Kristen Ashby, since she's patrolled the grass for most of her competitive softball career.

The landscape has changed for her final prep season, as the the Portage senior is now at shortstop. The newer surroundings don't leave Ashby with an unsettled feeling.

"It's a little bit strange, because I've never really played anywhere else," said Ashby, who started to play the game at age 6 and began travel ball when she was 12. "I do learn things pretty quickly."

Ashby picked up a crash course at the position during travel ball. While playing this past season for the Chi-Town Express, Wisconsin recruit Katie Christner was lost to an injury and Ashby moved to shortstop.

"I was definitely pretty nervous in the beginning," Ashby said. "I look up to Katie, and it meant a lot to me to have her support."

That experience coupled with the graduation of Indians' shortstop Dani Bryan and the emergence of sophomore transfer Jalise McKnight gave Portage coach Gil Arzola the idea about moving his All-Duneland Athletic Conference center fielder to the infield.

"It just seemed like a no-brainer to me," Arzola said. "When you have your best fielder in the game, you want her to be able to make more plays.

"Kristen is strong mentally, and I wanted my toughest kid getting 12, not four, plays a game. Even if she makes a mistake, she'll shake it off and move on."

Ashby has confidence in her teammates, and that helps the senior relax in her new environment.

"Jalise is great, and it feels 10 times better to know that your teammates have your back," said Ashby, who batted .312 with 18 runs scored and 15 steals last season. "I really love playing it now."

Ashby also believes that some of the attributes that made her successful in the outfield will carry over to the infield.

"My speed allowed me to have great range; I'm pretty good on my feet," she said.

"The throw is a lot quicker, so I have had to work on my release."

Ashby now appears to feel at home in the infield.

"I'm actually kind of a weirdo," Ashby said. "I think it's exciting to get balls hit at me every day.

"Playing it over the summer helped. I'm all for it now."

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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