This past May, the Connell High School softball team claimed the 1A state championship, largely thanks to the pitching and hitting of then-sophomore Ashley Thompson, who verbally committed to Alabama-Birmingham.
But during the summer, Thompson had second thoughts about her college pick. She ended up decommitting from UAB, which had offered her a full ride, and chose to verbally commit to the University of Washington.
"I'm super excited," Thompson said. "I've been wanting to go there since I was little."
Said her father, Connell assistant coach Ron Thompson: "UW finally came up with an offer we can live with, and that's where she's going. UW's her dream. You don't get much better than that."
Although Ashley Thompson liked UAB, the distance factor started to weigh heavily on her decision.
"I just realized after a while, I just wanted to be closer to home, and that’s where my heart is," she said. "I wouldn't want to leave my family."
Thompson, a 4.0 student with an interest in sports medicine, also was recruited by Syracuse and Boise State. The 6-foot-1 pitcher/first baseman, who plays club ball for the Washington LadyHawks, was tops in the SCAC East with a 14-1 record and a 0.43 ERA. At the plate, she batted .607 (36-for-61) with 49 RBIs and an SCAC East-leading 11 home runs.
Though she was recruited as a pitcher, Thompson is open to playing at any position. "Whatever the coaches think is best, whatever fits the team's needs," she said.
Last season, Thompson was a Herald All-Area first-team pick and the SCAC East Player of the Year. She also received a perhaps more prestigious honor. In a vote compiled by 1A coaches at the state tournament in Spokane, Thompson was named the 1A All-State team MVP. She received 205 points, beating out Onalaska pitcher and Boise State recruit Sarah Barnes (189).
Connell's Kayla Bjorge, Kate Hawk and Shanika Sawyer also made the first team, while Carissa Murphy was on the second team. Bjorge, Hawk and Murphy have graduated, but Ron Thompson isn't fretting over how the Eagles will replace them.
"I don't think we took a big dive," he said. "We've got pitching and catching. We're going to be faster. We've lost big pop, but we've gained speed. We'll be the favorite going all the way through state."