Stonebraker finds a home behind the plate

Ashlyn Stonebraker

(EDITOR’S NOTE: With the high school sports world on hold, we’re going to continue our Athlete of the Week feature with a little different format. We’re going to recognize a downstate senior athlete by sport for their career accomplishments. This week, Delmarva Christian’s Ashlyn Stonebraker won our readers’ poll for softball.)

GEORGETOWN — Ashlyn Stonebraker was just nine the first time she was asked to play catcher.

She was not happy about it.

“I was absolutely terrified,” Stonebraker said about the moment, which happened in a travel softball game. “I think I cried behind the plate during that inning because I did not want to be back there. And I swore I would never, ever catch (again).”

But, sure enough, a few years later, Stonebraker’s Delmarva Christian squad needed a catcher. And her dad, Keith, was the coach.

“Being the coach’s daughter, he couldn’t force anybody else to do it,” Ashlyn said with a laugh. “So I gave it a try again.”

This time, though, Stonebraker decided she liked the demanding position.

Three years later, the senior was considered one of the top catchers in the state going into this season, which has been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, Stonebraker earned third-team All-State honors. She was the only returning player among the six catchers honored on the All-State team overall.

While Stonebraker owns a career batting average of .484 with 101 RBI and 83 runs scored, Keith Stonebraker said where his daughter really shines is as a leader. Ashlyn is in her third season as a team captain for the Royals, who have won three Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference titles in a row.

“Her ability to just kind of manage our pitchers and keep them focused on the right things,” is the way Keith Stonebraker describes her strengths. “She kind of knew what to say and when to say it.”

A standout setter in volleyball, Ashlyn says she does like being in charge. The 17-year-old is also the Student Leadership Council president and National Honor Society vice president at Delmarva Christian.

“It’s my favorite position on the field to play,” Stonebraker said about catcher. “Honestly, I love being involved in every play. That’s something that’s really big in my life in general. I like being involved in a lot.

“I’m in constant communication with our pitchers. I just like being that support for our pitchers because I understand the stress and frustration they can be under.”

That’s because Stonebraker grew up around a pitcher. Her mom, Sheri, was a pitcher and later the head coach at Wilmington University. She still gives pitching lessons.

Her dad, on the other hand, was a baseball catcher at Wilmington so he can appreciate how tough his daughter needs to be.

“Her mental toughness is another huge attribute for her,” said Keith. “There were a lot of times where she just had to dig deep and suck it up and push forward.”

With the status of the spring season up in the air, Stonebraker knows she may have played her last softball game. If she plays any sport at NCAA Division II Anderson University (S.C.), it would probably be volleyball.

Stonebraker was the Player of the Year in the ESIAC last fall in volleyball, finishing her career with 1,309 assists and 221 aces.

Keith Stonebraker said he was prepared for this to be his daughter’s final season of softball. But the way this spring has turned out has made it especially difficult.

“For at least a year now I’ve looked forward to a softball Senior Night with her,” he said. “I’ve kind of thought, how am I going to get through that night? How am I going to handle that?

“Unfortunately now, I think it’s harder to think how am I going to get through not having that? I think the more difficult piece for me is not being able to see her be able to compete and have fun that last year.”

While appreciating the seriousness of the pandemic, Stonebraker admits it’s disappointing not to be able to end her career on the field.

A three-time all-ESIAC selection, Stonebraker has been playing softball since she was eight. She’s eight hits shy or 100 for her high school career.

“That’s one of the things that’s been so weird about this time — knowing that it’s softball season and not actually getting out on the field,” she said. “I think there’s a little part of me that is holding onto some sort of hope that some normalcy will come back and we’ll be able to play. I know that it probably won’t happen but I think that’s how I’m getting through — with a little bit of optimism.

“My heart goes out to all the seniors around the country that aren’t getting to play a spring sport. I know the feeling and it doesn’t feel great.”