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Karns City’s Ashley Fox Gives Nod to Those Who Supported Her on Softball Journey to Gannon University Recruit

KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Ashley Fox grabbed the sheet of paper sitting on the table in a classroom at Karns City High School and peered down at it.

(Ashley Fox, center, is flanked by her mother, Nicole, and father, Jason, during her signing ceremony to play college softball at Gannon University)

“Is this what I’m signing?” she asked, chuckling.

It was blank.

Fox flipped it over and laughed.

It was a “Fahrenheit 451” book assignment sheet.

The real National Letter of Intent from Gannon University will arrive in the coming days. But the ceremony of a monumental achievement was Monday evening with her family, coaches sand important items from her softball career so far surrounding her.

Signing day. A day Fox has been working most of her life to enjoy. A day the Karns City senior would scrawl her signature to play at a NCAA Division II softball program.

“This means everything to me,” Fox said, smile beaming. “I’ve wanted to play college softball since I was a little kid. It’s kind of a dream come true.”

Fox realized she didn’t get here alone.

She made sure to display prominently some memorabilia that marked her time playing softball.

“She wanted something from every team she played for because they all made her who she is today,” said her mother, Nicole Fox.

Ashley Fox displayed the medal she won on her first travel softball championship team for Butler Sting 10U coached by Justin Croyle; her first home run ball while playing for the Pittsburgh Predators 12U team under coach Keith Moran; the trophy when her current travel team won the USSSA Eastern World Series in 2020 — Fox was the MVP of that tournament under coach Shannon Sullivan; and, of course, her Karns City and Steel City Athletics uniform and helmet.

“This kiddo has worked hard to get where she’s at,” Nicole Fox said.

Fox has developed into a rarity on the softball diamond, both on the travel circuit and in high school. She can hit for power with her right-handed swing and she can also slap and bunt with the best of them from the other side of the plate. She’s just as likely to single and steal second and third than she is to lace a triple in the gap. And her ability to track fly balls and cover massive amounts of outfield grass and turf in center field has become legendary.

“When we went to the (Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference) meeting, the other coaches brought up her name,” said Karns City softball coach Mike Stitt. “They know who she is. And, you know, I’m sure after this year they’re gonna be glad she’s gone. I’m just glad she’s on our team.”

Fox batted .551 with six home runs and 30 RBIs in just 16 games last year for Karns City.

She was just as dangerous for her Steel City Athletics the last two seasons. In 2019, she batted .503 with nine home runs, 66 RBIs, 24 doubles and six stolen bases in 90 games. In a shortened 2020 campaign, Fox hit .424 with six homers, 19 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in just 17 games.

Fox did all that while also playing stellar defense in center field.

“Ash is an amazing center fielder for me,” said Sullivan, Fox’s Steel City Athletics coach. “There’s nothing she can’t catch. She’s robbed many players. Always a threat at the plate. Always. She can bring speed. She can bunt. She can hit home runs, triples, doubles. She’s a huge part of our team. She’s a great leader, too. Always positive with the girls. She’s a great player.”

Fox worried that the COVID-19 disruption that wiped out her sophomore softball season in high school and limited her travel exposure would cost her when it came to recruiting.

It didn’t.

But Fox was fortunate. The assistant softball coach at Gannon was working as an umpire at one of Fox’s travel games this summer and was enamored with her play. They two began talking and Fox said Gannon immediately leapt to the top of her list because of that interest and the four-year engineering program at the school.

She committed to play for the Golden Knights not long after.

“Our class lost a big year for recruiting,” Fox said. “I was really down in the dumps about it. But I found my place and it’s the best feeling in the world. I was lucky.”

An even better feeling was knowing she is signed, sealed and delivered before her senior year on the high school softball field.

“It’s like the world is lifted off my shoulders,” Fox said, smiling. “For the past three summers our team has been working our butts off to get out there and get recruited and fulfill our dream and it’s just the best feeling to achieve that.”

Fox said she was also lucky to be surrounded throughout her life by great coaches.

Two of them were there for her signing: Stitt and Sullivan.

She called Sullivan “my second mom.” Sullivan has been coaching Fox in one capacity or another since Fox was 8.

“All they do is encourage me,” Fox said. “They’re always pushing me. They make me mad sometimes, but they pushed me to my limit and they want me to be the best that I possibly can. I appreciate everything they have done for me. They’re just so supportive and I love it.”

Fox, who also excels in the classroom with a 4.9 GPA, makes a point of being supportive to those around her as well.

She leads by disarming people her with her dry wit and sense of humor. She cuts the tension, but knows when to get serious.

“I’m one of those people who is friends with everyone,” Fox said. “I just get along with a lot of people. I love that people aren’t afraid to come talk to me when they need something and they’re not afraid to ask me for help. That just means the world to me that people look up to me.”

Fox leads by example in everything she does.

Also a standout volleyball player, Fox isn’t shy about throwing her body around for the good of the team. She has the bruises to prove it.

It’s the same on the softball field.

“You should see me shag (fly balls) in practice,” Fox said, laughing. “You can ask Mike (Stitt). I go all over the place. Just a random practice, shagging balls, and I’m diving all over the place.”

Fox only knows one speed.

She’s excited to see what Karns City can do this spring with a wealth of senior talent returning.

“I feel like it’s really going to be a big season,” Fox said. “We have a lot of seniors this year and we’ve been playing together since we were 10 or 8 years old. It’s just going to be a big, exciting year for all of us. We want that District 9 title.”

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