November 19, 2013

Lady Bruins’ Ashley Conner signs grant with UTC

Devin Golden

— Rarely ever the outspoken one of the bunch, Ashley Conner gladly accepted the role of just doing her job on offense and defense for four years on the Northwest Whitfield High School softball team.

She’s expected to do the same at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

The senior enjoyed quite a career for the Lady Bruins and reaped the benefits of early exposure through the Tennessee Fury ’96 select travel team. She gave a verbal commitment to UTC during her sophomore year but finally signed her partial athletic scholarship last week and celebrated with friends and family on Monday. Conner also received an academic scholarship.

One of six seniors on the Lady Bruins’ roster this season, Conner admitted she isn’t the loudest voice in the dugout or on the field.

“I prefer to be more of the one-on-one communicator instead of the whole team,” Conner said.

Still, she is one of the most effective. Starting at shortstop since her freshman season, Conner was an important part in Northwest winning the past two Class 4A state championships and Region 7-4A championships in 2011 and 2012. This season, she batted .357 with 27 RBIs and 18 extra-base hits, and her slugging-plus-on-base percentage was .989, third best among the Lady Bruins. Her 16 doubles were second on the team.

Northwest coach Jason Brooker, who took over prior to the 2012 season, said Conner has “a great attitude and work ethic” aside from her actual softball skills.

“Those are things you can control regardless of the bad things that happen in a game,” Brooker said. “She does a good job with that.”

Conner’s father, Nick Conner, said playing for the Fury and coach Kirk Lewis helped with gaining more exposure.

“Our Fury ’96 coach always puts us in these really good tournaments,” the younger Conner said. “He always puts us in front of a lot of coaches.”

Conner said her post-college career dreams played a large role in her decision to go to UTC.

“I want to be a physical therapist and their physical therapy program is (one of the best) in the country,” she said.

But UTC’s softball success didn’t hurt in Conner keeping that commitment.

“Historically, that is a very good program,” Brooker said.

UTC finished 26-28 last season and 10-11 in Southern Conference play. The Lady Mocs reached the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional in 2011 while winning their 11th conference championship. Coach Frank Reed finished his 12th season with the team this past spring.

“She has a strong bat and is a compact kid,” Reed stated in a story posted on UTC’s athletics website, “She hits the ball well and is a great runner. She brings a lot to the table as far as what she can do for us. I can see her at either second base or on the corner.”