KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Ashley Fox wasn’t sure about the move from No. 3 in the order to the leadoff spot, much like the Karns City senior was uneasy about a shift from center field to shortstop.
Both moves have panned out pretty well.
(Above, Ashley Fox is batting .500 in the last six games after moving to the top of the Karns City order)
Since making her debut at the top of the order against Punxsutawney, Fox has been on a prodigious tear at the plate for the Gremlins’ softball team, batting .500 (10-for-20) with two home runs, four doubles, 15 RBIs, 10 runs scored and nine stolen bases over a six-game span.
Fox was at it again Monday against Clarion, launching an opposite-field, three-run homer to break open a 1-0 game in the bottom of the fourth inning as Karns City rolled to a 10-0 triumph over the Bobcats at Diehl Stadium.
“They moved me there so that I don’t have to worry about people being on base — there’s no pressure starting off a game,” Fox said, grinning. “And with my baserunning, I don’t have to worry about anyone in front of me. I can just do what I do.”
And what Fox does is unnerve the opposition with her speed and aggressiveness.
She’ll dare a catcher to throw down to first after a pitch. She’ll try to egg a throw so she can scamper to the next base.
“The speed, the talent, the knowledge — it’s just fun to watch,” said Karns City softball coach Mike Stitt.
Fox is fearless when she gets on base.
“I’ve done that since I was young. I love running the bases.” Fox said before flashing another grin. “I try to mess with the catcher as much as I can.”
For the season, Fox is hitting .416 with three homers, 19 RBIs, five doubles, 16 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. She’s only been thrown out trying to steal once.
She’s settling in at shortstop, too.
Fox made several strong defensive plays behind Ally Walker against Clarion in the win Monday. So did several of her teammates — Marra Patton made a stellar defensive play at first and Rossi McMillen made a diving catch in center to take away a hit.
“I feel really comfortable,” Fox said. “I feel like it’s good for the team because we have a strong outfield.”
Walker was strong in the circle.
Warming up before the game, the senior had an inkling that if she got the ball, she would pitch well against a potent Clarion lineup.
Stitt and his staff like to see their three primary pitchers throw before the game so they can gauge who is on.
It didn’t take the coaching staff long to determine Walker was going to be sharp against the Bobcats.
Walker gave up just one hit, a single up the middle to Alexa Kitchen in the top of the second inning. She struck out five and walked three in five innings.
“The drop ball really came up clutch today,” Walker said. “I’ve been learning a screwball, so my drop balls have been slacking.”
Clarion (2-5) was again without slugger Kylee Beers, who has missed several games because of injury.
Payton Simko got the loss, but held Karns City’s lineup in check for three innings.
The Gremlins took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a RBI single by Sara Patton, but managed little offense against Simko until things unraveled for Clarion’s pitcher in the bottom of the fourth.
Karns City (10-1) plated six runs in that frame, keyed by the three-run homer by Fox.
“We needed to help her out with the bats, too,” said Clarion coach Dan Shofestall. “We have to hit the ball better. She pitched well. She gave us a chance to win. We just have to get the bats going.”
The Gremlins scored three more times — all with two out and all unearned — in the bottom of the fifth inning to end the game.
Marra Patton went 3-for-3 with a double and a pair of RBIs. Jess Dunn went 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs and Sara Patton had a multi-hit game for Karns City, which has won 10 in a row.
“We’re starting to click,” Stitt said. “We’ve been a little slow out of the gate in games, but once we get rolling, these girls are good.”