Dan Fleser: Ashley Rogers Is Ready For The NCAA Tournament

Friday, May 20, 2022 - by Dan Fleser

After working 13 innings and throwing 161 pitches for an SEC tournament shutout, Tennessee’s Ashley Rogers got some well-deserved shut-eye.

“I slept a lot more than I usually do,” the Lady Vols right-hander said, laughing.

Otherwise, she reported no other significant aftereffects from throwing a marathon in a 1-0 victory over Mississippi State. Eight days later, the former Meigs County standout is ready to go for the NCAA tournament, which begins Friday night against Campbell. She made it through a regular season interrupted by back issues to reach the postseason, which was the goal all along.

“There was definitely a detailed plan and a process to first shut her down and then very slowly ramp her back up and make sure we didn’t have any huge setbacks that would affect us this time of year,” Lady Vols coach Karen Weekly said. “So, the goal was to have her in a much better place right now, and I think we all saw from the Mississippi State 13-inning game that’s where we wanted to be.”

For No. 11 seed Tennessee (39-16) to advance this weekend, its pitchers likely will have to lead the way. The regional’s average RPI of 37 ranks second among the 16 sites. The overall strength of the four teams is based largely on pitching.

Campbell’s Georgeanna Barefoot, for example, was named the most valuable player of the Big South tournament, winning two games and posting a 0.37 earned run average. She recorded 13 strikeouts in 19 innings.

Ohio State’s Lexie Handley was the program’s first 22-game winner in 13 years. She’s recorded 259 strikeouts, which ranks third in the Big Ten.

Oregon State beat Tennessee 5-2 earlier this season. Mariah Mazon went the distance, allowing one earned run while striking out 11.

The Lady Vols have Erin Edmoundson, who won 19 games this season. The graduate transfer from Texas Tech earned all-SEC and all-region second team honors. Sophomore Ryleigh White, meanwhile, went 6.1 innings in a start against Auburn during the final regular season series, allowing one run.

Rogers adds her All-American background to the mix. Her mental toughness is even greater after going through a season she described as “definitely a challenge for me personally.”

“It’s definitely been a period of growth for me as well, as a player and a person,” she said. “Our mind-set has been toward the end of the season, having me ready for the postseason.”

It definitely hasn’t been easy. Rogers probably has lost some sleep in the process. But she’s made it.

“It was really tough on her because she’s not only impatient, she’s a perfectionist,” Weekly said. “Ashley wants to be able to do everything at 100 percent 100 percent of the time and it’s hard to go through something like that and know that: hey, maybe I’m not going to be the same Ashley anytime this year but I can be 100 percent of what I have right now. That’s a pretty tough mental process for an elite athlete to go through, and I’m just really proud of how she’s tackled that and how she’s embraced going out there and giving 100 percent of what she has for her team.”

* * *

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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