by Ben Barkley
via The Prowler News at SMHS
Two Starr’s Mill High School rising seniors had the opportunity to play the sport they love on an international scale this past month. Catcher Kate Ashmore, a University of North Georgia commit, and outfielder Lea Duben, a Young Harris commit, played six exhibition games in Spain against teams from all over the country.
In their three competitive games, the U.S. won two and lost one, while their other three games were combinations of Spanish and American players that were played just for fun.
“Even though softball is not as popular in Spain as it is in the United States, the girls play the game competitively and with heart,” Ashmore said.
The USA team faced an uphill battle with a composition of players from all around the Atlanta area that had never played together, but the squad eventually meshed and performed well together.
“We faced strong competition in a few of the cities in Spain, but it allowed us to improve in areas we might have been weaker in and grow as a team offensively and defensively,” Duben said.
In between games, the players got to explore the country with their Spanish counterparts. The teams took pictures together, ate together at restaurants, and talked to each other about how their lifestyles and playing style differ. Overall, the U.S. players came back to their soil with more of an appreciation for the sport they love.
“I never dreamed that softball would take me all the way to Europe and give me the great opportunities it has,” Ashmore said.
Ashmore and Duben are coming off great seasons last fall for the Panthers, leading the team to a 21-7 record overall. Ashmore hit .436 with 2 home runs and 36 RBIs, and Duben hit .415 with 36 runs and 21 stolen bases on 22 attempts as both earned All-County First Team honors. The momentum from such an experience should help propel them to even greater heights.
“It’s a great honor for them to be selected to go overseas and represent themselves, their families, and the USA in such a positive manner,” said their Starr’s Mill softball coach Mark Williamson. “Kate and Lea are great people and the types of leaders you need to make your program successful.”