All-Area softball: Connell's Thompson queen of the diamond

June 13, 2013 

It has been one great weekend after another lately for Connell senior Ashley Thompson.

Her club softball team, the Washington Explosion Gold, just won the ASA Gold Regional tournament in Selah to earn a berth at the ASA Gold National Championship tournament in Clearwater, Fla., from July 21-27.

Two weekends before that, Thompson led Connell to a third consecutive Class 1A fastpitch title, striking out 15 batters and blasting a tape-measure home run in the championship game to cap her high school career with a perfect 27-0 record.

“We finished on a pretty good note,” she said. “I ended (my career) how anyone would want to end it.”

Thompson finished her career with an 86-6 record in the circle.

The week between, the BYU-bound fireballer found out she was the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Washington. If her life is going to get much better than that, Thompson isn’t sure how.

“It is a little overwhelming. I didn’t expect (the Gatorade honor). I’m honored I had the chance to be in the running,” she said.

Before Thompson heads down to Salt Lake City to begin the next phase of her career, she can add another honor to her wall of fame — the Tri-City Herald player of the year.

And if you’re questioning the utter dominance of the two-time 1A player of the year, consider that she shut out Walla Walla, a team that finished second in the Class 4A state tournament the year before, 5-0 in late March.

Less than week before that, all she did was strike out 18 Kamiakin batters in a 6-1 victory over the Braves, the same team that just won its second consecutive Class 3A title.

“She’s the real deal,” said Kamiakin coach Tim Bisson after the game. “There’s a reason she’s D-I.”

Thompson said she might have some competition at BYU. The Cougars’ current starter, Katie Manuma, still has one more year left, and another incoming freshman could give her a fight for the role of staff ace.

Thompson is just looking to contribute in any way she can.

“I’ve got to earn my spot. I was told if I work hard enough, I can step in there,” she said.

Bisson, the Herald coach of the year, took over for Tammy Hutchison, who had just led the team to the 2012 championship. Despite the graduation of several seniors — including all-state pitcher Lindsey Kamphuis — Bisson led the Braves to another state title to become only the fifth team at the 3A/4A level to repeat since 1994.

“Are you sure you got the right number?,” Bisson replied after being notified. “Honor to be considered. (There are) a lot of great coaches in the area.”

One of them was Richland’s Casey Emery, who performed a magic act after graduating seven seniors and managed to win the Mid-Columbia Conference title. Needing two wins at regionals to go to state, Emery pushed all the right buttons to get his team there.

But it’s hard to argue with a state title.

“If we weren’t a team, it would have been extremely difficult for us,” Bisson said.

Thompson and Ellie Rassbach of Walla Walla are the only repeat selections to the first team.

Rounding out the rest of the team is: pitcher Paige Goulet, catcher April Utecht, first baseman Abby Perryman, outfielder Reilly Bramlett and utility player Kayla Andrews from Richland; third baseman Melanie Oord and utility player Jessica Edminster from Kamiakin; second baseman Jordy Storm and outfielder Mattie Smyth of Walla Walla; Hope Sawyer of Connell; Paige Long of Hermiston and Kim Bullis of Othello.

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