By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Former high school softball all-conference honoree Ashton Mensinger came to Happy Valley with the game she loved as a mere afterthought. The current senior had no idea she would eventually become not only a Penn State student-athlete, but a valuable Nittany Lion pitcher in the circle.
It all started Mensinger's sophomore year, when she decided to become the softball program's team manager. The supply chain and information systems major once again served as manager her junior year, marking a full two years that she was involved with the team.
However, Mensinger was more than just your average team manager. She would pitch to the players as often as she could, whether it was during batting practice or throughout specific hitting drills.
"I would throw in the cages a lot and I would throw front-toss and different things for the hitters," Mensinger said.
Head coach Amanda Lehotak, who noticed how Mensinger would take every opportunity to throw to the team's batters when serving as manager, talked about her transition from not playing softball for three years to pitching for the Nittany Lions.
"We put it out that we were looking for managers and pitchers, because your pitchers can only throw so much and there's nothing like a live arm," Lehotak said. "She's been pitching for us for a year or two and this year with some injuries coming in, we knew we needed someone else and asked her to join the roster."
Mensinger reminisced about being told the news of a lifetime.
"All the coaches came in and sat down and asked if I would like to join the team," Mensinger remembered. "I didn't know what to expect. It was just crazy going from a manager to actually being on the team."
"I grew up watching softball and watching all these games on tv, especially Division 1 schools," Mensinger added. "I never thought that I would be on the field."
For the Pennsylvania native and four-time high school softball letter winner, the process of transitioning to a player that coach Lehotak can turn to in times of need in the circle wasn't as hard as it seems.
"I love the competitive aspect of it and just being able to play. I don't really think I got nervous," she said about transitioning from a manager to an official Nittany Lion pitcher. "I feel like I was prepared and ready."
"She's been a great addition to our team," Lehotak added.
With regards to her long journey to get the opportunity to wear the blue and white on the diamond, Mensinger didn't hesitate in crediting her teammates when asked about her favorite part of joining the program.
"Just getting to travel with the team, getting to spend time with everybody on and off the field, and getting to know everybody," she said. "It's been really fun."
Mesinger and the rest of the Nittany Lions will prepare to host in-conference Illinois for a three-game series this weekend at Beard Park. First pitch for game one is Friday at 8 p.m.