Appalachian State suits Ledford’s Best

Apr. 08, 2013 @ 09:53 PM

Ashley Best has never been one to shy away from a challenge — it’s just not in her personality. Whether it’s on the field or off, she wants to do everything she can to achieve her goals.

Through hard work and determination, Best has grown into one of the area’s top high school softball players and now looks to accomplish even more at the next level, having signed with NCAA Division I Appalachian State to continue her softball career.

“I knew that I wanted to be the best player I could be,” she says. “Now that I’ve signed with App, I know that I want to come in there and be ready to start grinding. I want to already be up here and let them take me to another level.”

Best, the daughter of Terry and Melissa of Thomasville, has accomplished an amazing amount during her four years as a varsity starter at catcher, including earning all-conference, all-district and all-state each of her previous three years.

It’s the result of her tremendous commitment and relentless work ethic, from countless trips to the gym improving her strength and conditioning to endless hours of practice spent honing her hitting at the plate and perfecting her catching behind it.

“She’s, by far, the best catcher we’ve had,” Panthers coach Charlie Brown says. “She’s one of the best hitters and one of the most unbelievable competitors I’ve ever seen. Her competitive spirit, her drive and determination are like no other.

“That’s why she’s gotten to where she is — with a lot of help from her parents and the people she goes to at the batting center, travel-ball coaches. She just has that drive and that willingness to be successful. She really is a determined individual.”

Best was drawn to playing softball from a young age, encouraged by her dad’s passion for baseball 

“I think he saw potential when I threw a snowball from the back of the yard and hit him right in the head,” she recalls with a laugh.

She began playing organized softball in about the fifth or sixth grade. But following her eighth-grade year, in which she continued to hit but didn’t play full-time in the field, she focused hard on improving and becoming a better all-around player.

While she was happy to contribute to her team in any way she could, that experience was a big motivator, she says. When she came to Ledford, she had built many of the tools as a catcher and a hitter to contribute right away. She has continued to expand on them.

“I guarantee sitting on the bench as an eighth-grader did not go over well with her,” Brown says with a laugh. “And I know that between that eighth- and ninth-grade year that she was probably working her tail off. 

“And I guarantee she was determined to be on varsity, determined to be a starter. And when I saw her, it was no doubt that she was just a phenomenal athlete, phenomenal catcher.”

Best, who is among the leaders in the state record book for hits in consecutive at-bats, doubles in a season and RBIs in a season, first got in touch with the Mountaineers through her travel team, the Carolina Cardinals, which finished second at the ASA 18U A National Championships.

But her familiarity with the school (her family has a house nearby) plus its strong softball program, which has consistently been among the Southern Conference’s top teams in recent years and features Glenn’s Kristen Terry and Southwest Guilford’s Sarah Warnock, made it an easy choice.

“I’ve always loved App. So, it was No. 1,” says Best, who wants to study exercise science and eventually go into physical therapy. “It feels great. I’m really excited about the opportunity to go to App and play. It just felt like home.”