A Razorback softball player has embraced the role of being a calming influence and is helping the team to its best year in program history.
Razorback junior first baseman Ashley Diaz got her drive early in her life from her parents, who both played softball. Her dad told her softball was the way to go out and have fun, and she loved it.
“My dad always told me to work hard,” Diaz said. “He always told me I couldn’t be lazy and to work for what I want, and if I work hard, I’ll achieve what I want to do."
Diaz committed to then-Arkansas coach Mike Larabee and stuck with her commitment when the Razorbacks hired Courtney Deifel. She stayed committed because of the facilities and passion of Razorback fans, she said.
“I loved how Arkansas was a college town,” Diaz said. “Coming from California, it’s just so busy and had all of these different teams. I love how in Fayetteville, it was just about the Razorbacks.”
Diaz burst onto the scene her freshman year, leading the team with a .331 batting average and 12 home runs. She is one of two players in program history to hit 10 or more home runs during her freshman season and the first freshman to have 40 RBIs. She was on the Division I Freshman of the Year watchlist.
“Her freshman year, she came in like ‘Hey here I am,’” Deifel said. “She can hang with the best, and that’s what she’s done from day one until now.”
Diaz wasn’t always the even-keeled player she has become. It took time, but now she thinks it’s a skill she’s learned when things aren’t always going right, she said.
“I didn’t have that quality of being at that steady pace,” Diaz said. “I would let it take over me, and I think over the past few years, I have learned that I have a next at-bat, I have a next groundball.”
She had to learn that things weren’t always going to go right, as her numbers went down across the board her sophomore year. Despite the Razorbacks’ team success last year, Diaz had a .283 batting average and her home-run total fell to three.
Despite the trouble on the field during her sophomore year, Diaz comes out to the field every game this year and tries to keep the same mindset, she said.
“On the field, I wouldn’t say I’m emotionless,” Diaz said. “I try not to go on the highs and lows.”
Diaz tries to be a leader on the field by showing her teammates that she’s someone the team can turn to if they mess up and feel a little less confident in themselves.
“I would describe my role as that person that people turn to when they need to relax because I have that personality where if people get frustrated, I tell them it’s ok,” Diaz said.
Razorback senior infielder Autumn Buczek shared a story when Diaz helped to rally the team this year. The Razorbacks lost to the Missouri Tigers, 3-0, in front of a program-record crowd March 24. The Razorbacks had two errors in the game, including one from Buczek.
“After the game, I apologized for making one of those mistakes, and Ashley stepped up and said ‘You know what, you went hard on that play,’ so she was just trying to pick me up when I was feeling kind of down about my mistake,” Buczek said.
The Razorbacks rallied to win the next game, 10-7, to take two out of three in the series.
Diaz is hitting .310 and has six home runs on the year for the 34-11 Razorbacks. The Hogs are 9-9 in the Southeastern Conference and have a chance to have a winning record in the SEC for the fourth time in program history.