By David Hughes
TERRE HAUTE — Rosedale’s Ashley Loomis remembers a league softball game she pitched when she was about 11.
She can laugh about it now, but back then it wasn’t funny.
She hit 11 opposing batters with pitches.
“My control was terrible,” admitted Loomis, now a junior at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College.
Fortunately for her and her current Woods teammates, her control has improved over the years.
In the championship game of the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) national tournament Saturday night at Mattoon, Ill., the right-handed Loomis fired a five-inning, one-hit shutout (with two walks and no hit batters) to lead the Pomeroys over Judson 11-0.
That enabled The Woods to take home its fifth USCAA title in the last six years.
“That was a lot of fun,” Loomis reflected this week. “We all got together as a team and had fun and I think that’s why we were so successful.”
Loomis, who plays first base when not pitching, helped her cause offensively by going 2 for 3 with a triple, a double, two runs scored and one run batted in.
Earlier Saturday, she tossed a four-hit shutout in a 3-0 seven-inning victory over Judson and went 3-for-4 with a booming three-run homer, a double and four RBIs in an 11-4 triumph over defending USCAA champion Robert Morris-Springfield.
Because Loomis was virtually unhittable on the mound (posting a 3-0 record) and unstoppable at the plate in helping the Pomeroys go 5-0 last weekend, the former Riverton Parke High School standout received the tournament’s Most Valuable Player plaque.
“She was a tremendous force for us,” Woods first-year coach Gary Rodgers said. “I pretty much knew going in that she would pitch at least three games in the tournament [which she did] … and she hit great too.”
Loomis also was named to the USCAA All-American first team with Woods teammates Amanda Daniel and Erica Ketner. The Pomeroys’ Allison Tomey was an All-American honorable mention.
Loomis and teammate Alisha Mosier were named Academic All-Americans.
For the season, Loomis hit .518 with 12 bombs, seven doubles, one triple (in the USCAA championship game) and 44 RBIs. Pitching-wise, she finished with a 14-1 record, 1.03 earned-run average and 85 strikeouts in 88 innings.
“She’s a disciplined pitcher who hits her spots well and all of her pitches work for her,” Rodgers said. “During a game, she has clear thoughts on what she needs to throw in any situation. She stays calm all the time.
“Ashley Loomis is a complete, all-around ballplayer. She hits the ball with power, she hits with power to the opposite field and she can get you a basehit. Being a pitcher herself, she knows how to read the [opposing] pitcher and what to look for.”
Loomis started playing T-ball when she was 4. The name of her first team was — are you ready? — the Pink Bunnies out of Rockville.
She developed an interest in softball and started playing for the Indiana Rockets’ 12-and-under travel team when she was 12.
While bouncing around to summer tournaments as a teen-ager with the Indy Steelers, Loomis played with current Indiana State starters Darcy Wood and Katie Iocoangeli as well as all sorts of other eventual NCAA Division I players.
Loomis spent four seasons on Riverton Parke’s varsity as the Panthers won four sectional and two regional titles before she graduated in 2004. Riverton Parke reached the Class A state finals in 2002 and 2003 while she was there.
When it was time to select a college, she chose Lake Land in Mattoon, where Larry Stocking was the coach. Since then, Casey (Ill.) legend Denny Throneburg has taken over that program.
“I thought about [NCAA] D-I and then I went to Lake Land College for one year,” Loomis recalled. “But I ended up picking St. Mary-of-the-Woods [as a sophomore]. Its education department is great and I wanted to have fun playing softball.”
Interestingly, Loomis did not get to bat when she pitched for Lake Land until the last game of her regular season against Olney Central, where Rodgers happened to be coaching at the time. She remembers hitting well in that game, so she continued to bat in a couple more games during the regional tournament.
After arriving at The Woods, Loomis missed most of the 2006 season with mononucleosis, but she was able to return with about two weeks left in the season. She played in the 2006 USCAA national tournament at Mattoon, where the Pomeroys finished runners-up to Robert Morris-Springfield.
Loomis believes that experience — playing eight games in two days and five games on the final day without winning the championship — provided extra motivation for The Woods this season.
“Anytime anybody even mentioned Robert Morris,” she insisted, “this year’s [Woods] players would get fire in their eyes.”
Loomis credits Throneburg, who has run a softball camp in Casey for years, with speeding up her development as a pitcher when she was younger. She hopes to become a coach and pitching instructor herself someday, in addition to turning the two degrees she plans to obtain in May 2008 into a teaching job. Those degrees are in elementary education and preschool through third grade mild intervention.
Before that happens, Loomis will try to win one more USCAA national title with a partially new batch of teammates next season.
“I think coach Rodgers has a lot of recruits coming in,” she noted. “And we still have a lot of girls who work hard. I don’t see why we wouldn’t be good.”