Later this year, Emily Ashby will start a new career — nursing.
“I just got hired at Barnes (Hospital in St. Louis),” Ashby said. “I just got to take my boards (exams) and start there and get going with my life.”
Even though she will be working as a nurse, Ashby will continue to coach the Granite City softball team. She completed her first season as head coach this spring.
Ashby is thrilled she’ll be working as a nurse and a softball coach.
“They’re both my dreams,” said Ashby, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in May. “How lucky I am to get to do both? So I consider myself pretty lucky and fortunate that I can make both of my dreams happen. I love it.”
Ashby is already looking forward to the 2016 softball season. The Warriors will lose just three players — Brittany Morales, Maddie Shultz and Gina Miller — to graduation and return several key players, including all-Southwestern Conference selections Caitlin Patrick and Morgan Tanksley.
“We’re sad to see three seniors go, but we have a lot of young girls and we’re looking to build and we’re so excited to keep going and build on this past year and take it from there,” Ashby said.
Ashby said her players already are preparing for next year.
“A lot of them are playing summer ball,” the Granite City coach said. “In July, we’re starting two days a week of lifting. We’re going to be doing a lot of hitting in the offseason.”
Granite City finished 7-25 overall and 3-11 in Southwestern Conference play after winning three games a year ago. The Warriors lost their first 13 games before sweeping Greenville in a doubleheader on April 11 for their first victories of the season. Granite City also got wins over Collinsville, Althoff and Cahokia and defeated East St. Louis twice.
“They’re a good little ballclub,” Ashby said. “They’re going to be even better. Our coaching staff believes in them 100 percent. We support them and we push them, but it’s all on them. I think they finally get it and that’s what makes it exciting.”
Ashby said her team started to improve after playing in the Alton Tournament in May.
“They all kind of gelled after that,” Ashby said. “We really started playing to our potential. We played two games and we lost both, but we played better as a team.”
The Warriors’ biggest highlight of the season came on May 14, when they beat Collinsville 4-3 in eight innings on senior day at Wilson Park. Granite City avenged the 16-6 loss to the Kahoks on April 14 at Collinsville.
“The girls wanted it,” Ashby said. “It couldn’t have been a better night for our seniors. It gave them kind of a farewell game. I couldn’t have been more proud of them after that game.”
Patrick, a junior, went 4 for 4 with two RBIs against Collinsville. She finished as the Warriors’ leading hitter with a .459 batting average and earned second-team all-Southwestern Conference honors.
“She has a great bat,” Ashby said. “Anytime we needed a spark or a big, two out hit, when Caitlin is up, I didn’t have any worries.”
Tanksley, a freshman, earned third-team all-league pitcher honors. She finished with 157 strikeouts.
“Morgan as a freshman is going up against some great pitchers in our conference,” Ashby said. “For her as a freshman to get third-team, that’s a pretty big accomplishment in itself, so we’re expecting huge things from Morgan. She led us and kept us in a ton of ballgames and she did a great, great job for us.”
Other players include juniors Sarah Boyd, Cassie Petras and Mikayla Kingsley; sophomores Savannah Gibson, Allison Kromray, Ciara Yon, Haley Crider and Holly Zaring; and freshmen Krystle Marler, Tressa Scarborough and Morgan Fazio.
Ashby graduated from Granite City in 2009. She played with the Warriors’ softball team all four years. Ashby was assistant coach for three years before getting promoted as head coach this spring.
“It was so much fun,” Ashby said. “It was so much more than I ever could have expected. These girls mean everything to me and it’s so much fun coming in every day and getting to do what I do. I feel pretty fortunate that I’m 24 and I get a chance to coach these girls.”