Dan Fleser: UT Pitcher Ashley Rogers' Determination Paid Off

Friday, May 13, 2022 - by Dan Fleser
Dan Fleser
Dan Fleser

Ashley Rogers’ path to the pitcher’s circle has been fraught with obstacles this softball season. For that matter, her route hasn’t always been clear for several seasons now.

So, the Tennessee right-hander wasn’t going to go easily from Thursday’s SEC tournament quarterfinal game against Mississippi State. And the game turned into a marathon. Regardless, the more pitches the former Meigs County star threw, the more determined she was to stay.

“I was not coming out of that game,” she said.

Indeed, she wasn’t.

Rogers, who sat out three stretches of this season, threw 161 pitches. She pitched 13 brilliant shutout innings until freshman designated hitter Lair Beautae’s RBI single provided a 1-0 victory in Gainesville, Fl.

Rogers’ pitching performance was the longest in Tennessee history. The previous record was 11 innings, which was held by former Tennessee greats Monica Abbott, Ellen Renfroe (three times) and current Lady Vols pitching coach Megan Rhodes Smith. “Incredible!!” Abbott said afterward via Twitter, punctuating her acclaim with applause emojis for added emphasis.

“You’d have to carry me off the field to come out of that game, especially just as the innings went on,” Rogers said. “. . . I just have to stay in an emotional headspace and level to go out there and perform.”

Rhiannon Potkey, the co-editor of D1Softball, last week wrote an article about Rogers for the Tennessee Ledger, a state-wide newspaper. Potkey described how the All-American’s curiosity about her recurring back problems and a lack of information about overuse injuries in college softball, motivated her to chronicle her experience as a way to help fill the void. She wrote a paper on the topic last year and it’s been submitted to a medical journal.

Rogers has been sidelined intermittently during the last three years. She sat out the 2020 season. She’s been limited to 13 starts this season.

“Ashley has really embraced kind of a new normal and just redefined herself this season to be able to come out there and pitch for her team,” Tennessee coach Karen Weekly said. “What you saw out there (Thursday) is absolute brilliance, and I’m just so proud of everything she’s overcome this year.”

Rogers had been building toward Thursday’s herculean effort. She threw a five-inning perfect game in an 8-0 run-rule victory over East Carolina on April 23. She followed up with complete-game victories over Ole Miss (six innings) and Auburn.

Against Mississippi State, she retired the side in order in nine of the innings. She retired nine of the first 10 hitters she faced and 17 in a row from the fifth inning to the ninth. Overall, she allowed just three hits and struck out seven.

The victory came exactly one year after Rogers threw a then-career high nine innings against A&M in a 3-2 Tennessee victory in the first round of the tournament.

Rogers was looking ahead afterward, specifically to a final exam in statistics she had to finish. Beyond that, her performance creates more optimism for the upcoming NCAA tournament.

* * *

Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at ddanfleser3@gmail.com.


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