During her first two seasons at Crescenta Valley High, particularly her sophomore campaign, Erin Ashby became a standout contributor at the plate and in the infield for the Falcons.
With a bona fide all-star cast surrounding her during her freshman and sophomore years, Ashby became one of many Falcons putting up gaudy numbers at the plate and earning herself a Division I scholarship.
But as the 2010 season rolled around, Ashby stepped to the forefront for the Falcons, taking on not just a leadership role, but having to maintain her status as one of the team's and area's best hitters, all the while taking on pitching duties.
"If she had not stepped up to do that, we might not have had others stepping up and willing to do that," Crescenta Valley High Coach Dan Berry says. "She was the straw that stirred the drink in terms of keeping our program swirling in the right direction."
In a season in which individual standouts were plentiful, from Ashby's Falcons teammate Alyssa Sovereign to Pacific League rivals Kassy Uchida of Burbank and Heather Haynes of Burroughs or La Cañada standout Anna Edwards, it was Ashby's dual contributions that stood out most.
Thus, it was Ashby's numbers at both the plate and in the circle that combined to make her the complete package and the 2010 All-Area Softball Player of the Year, as voted by the sports editors and writers of the Glendale News-Press, La Cañada Valley Sun and Burbank Leader.
Ashby finished her sophomore season with a .515 average along with 47 runs, 32 runs batted in and 14 extra-base hits. Those numbers translated into a fair share of notoriety and accolades.
One telling statistic that was often overlooked, however, was the 0.00 earned-run average she tallied in a brief three innings of work. But there was more than that going on behind the scenes.
"I felt that we might have to go that way," says Berry of calling on Ashby as a junior for pitching duties. "She threw a lot last year without having to throw in a game."
Though Ashby had only previously pitched when she was part of a 12-and-under Crescenta Valley All-Stars team, Berry's plan did come to fruition.
"He just told me it would help the team," Ashby says. "I did what I could. I did what was best for the program."
The results were staggering, as Ashby tallied a 13-6 record for a Crescenta Valley team that, by its lofty standards, was supposed to be in a rebuilding phase. She threw 118 innings and struck out 137 to 25 walks, notching a 1.72 earned-run average in the process.
With a scholarship already in hand and a seemingly bright future fielding groundballs and letting her hitting do the talking at Stanford, Ashby decided to take on the extra chore and make the switch to pitching.
"It meant the world in terms of what you're trying to teach in a team game," Berry says. "It's great to see one your leaders step up and make a sacrifice."
It was also symbolic of the change that the Falcons, who would rally for second place in the Pacific League, went through, with Ashby and Sovereign, who also made the change from second base to shortstop, leading a largely inexperienced team dealing with the departures of a slew of notable talents.
"Everybody strives to make each other better and that's the way we looked at it," says Ashby, who would go on to earn CalHiSports All-State, All-CIF and Pacific League Player of the Year honors. "We might not have a Baillie Kirker or a Heather Bacon, but we can improve and fill the holes.
"Sissy and I tried our best as captains, along with [Nicole Salas] to make the team better."
Through it all, Ashby's offensive numbers still flourished.
She once again led off the Falcons' attack and once again produced eye-popping numbers despite having to balance her focus and work on hitting and pitching.
"Knowing that she's a student of the game … I didn't think that the learning curve going to the mound would be something we'd have to deal with," Berry says. "She had the ability to adjust from defense to offense. She was able to separate the two.
"I think it played off each other. Rather than taking away from one, I think it added to it both ends."
Ashby produced a .568 average (50 for 88) with 38 runs, 32 RBIs, 16 extra-base hits, just five strikeouts and a .612 on-base percentage.
Still, though the answer to whether or not she would take on pitching duties came easy, Ashby says none of her success did.
"It think [pitching was] a new challenge for me," Ashby says. "It was kind of fun for me to see the limits I could push.
"Hitting's kinda like a job, you really have to work at it. I love it cause it kind of displays the amount of work I had to put in."
Though the fruits of Ashby's labor had already produced plenty, her junior season saw her agree to take on an added task.
Having been an underclassmen who put up stellar numbers amid a senior-laden lineup full of standouts, Ashby truly broke out as she became a leader and a pitcher, while maintaining her edge as an exceptional hitter.
In the end, she became the area's best.