After leading Spanish Springs to a trio of 4A state crowns in her four years with the Cougars, Decker has now been a part of back-to-back trips to the Women’s College World Series with the University of California. This season Cal took the Pac-12 title by posting its best ever conference record in school history with a record of 21-3, working its way to hosting its first ever Super Regional where it defeated Washington to advance to the program’s 12th World Series appearance. Unfortunately for the UC Berkley faithful, Cal was ousted from the tournament, finishing its season at 58-7, a school record for wins.
On the road to Oklahoma City, the site of the World Series, Cal had to fight to keep its season alive in the regionals after being dropped into the losers’ bracket by the squad from the University of Arkansas. The Bears refused to be put down.
“After we lost we all got together and we talked about how much we want it and how hard we’ve been working all year and that we didn’t come this far to lose in regionals,” Decker said. “Our plan was to go all the way so we weren’t ready for it to end there and it worked out for us. I’ve been blessed with amazing talent on all the teams that I’ve been on. We all just work together as teammates and just have fun. Any opportunity I get, I just want to try my hardest and do whatever I can to contribute to the team and help us win.”
Decker has done more than help her teams win over the years. During her four-year tenure with the Purple and Silver, the Cougs posted an overall record of 127-15, and in her first two seasons with the Bears, Cal is 103-20, for a combined winning percentage of .868 (230-35). Sadly for Cal and Decker, none of those 102 wins spanning the past pair of years has ended with a World Series title.
While the Golden Bears have not been able to reach the championship finals, Decker has made sure to soak in the whole experience.
“It’s a great feeling,” Decker said. “We’ve been working really hard and all of our hard work has been paying off. We even got to host at home, which is the first year that we’ve gotten to host and we’re the first team to win the Pac-12. It’s an amazing feeling. It’s great. The whole experience is great. Coming from a great high school team and making it to a No. 1 team in the nation, it’s just a great experience.
Decker has not been the only one to take in the experience.
“I could have never anticipated ever being this proud of what she has done and what she has accomplished,” Troy Decker, Ashley’s father said. “It’s hard to put into words. We have a batting cage at home and she would hit seven days a week. We traveled over the hill to play on good quality teams so she could get exposure to colleges and she has just put in so much hard work. She has worked her butt off and I just couldn’t be prouder. She can go out there and strike out and I’ll still have a smile on my face. I’m just so proud of her. There’s no other way to put it.”
Before Decker went to play for the No. 1 team in the nation, she was wreaking havoc on high school teams throughout Nevada during her prep days. The nightmares she caused for opposing pitchers still resonates with her former coach.
“I can remember her making the varsity team as a freshman and it was because she was extremely quick and fast,” Spanish Springs coach Jeff Davidson said. “I told her that she would get an opportunity at some point and time to get a starting spot and I asked her to play outfield. I remember her saying she had only played infield, but that she’d play wherever I wanted her to. Her first game starting she got three hits and stole three bases. Her next start she went 4-for-4 and stole three more bases and basically never left my lineup after that for four years.
“She was an impact player. She could do it all. She could bunt, slap or just hit for power. There was really no way to defend her. She was a key component of all our championships. She set the table for us offensively. It’s just a great accomplishment for Ashley to play at Cal, a Division I Pac-12 school. That is a huge honor for her and shows how great of a player she is.”
It is that talent that earned Decker a spot on the Bears’ roster and it is her achievements that have made so many so proud of her.
“Last year in the World Series Ashley hit a triple that scored three and was the Capital One Player of the Game and I had told her afterward that if she wanted to quit softball right then, I would be fine with it,” Troy Decker said. “She’s been playing for 10 years and I was good with that. It was the proudest moment of my life of watching her, so the rest has been just been gravy. She’s getting a great education and she’s getting to play softball. She’s been to the World Series twice now and it’s so hard to get here. While you want to win a world series, it’s weird. They lost last night and it didn’t even bother me. I’m just so proud.”
Decker has not just impressed on the softball diamond though. Majoring in sociology, Decker has quite the workload in the classroom.
“It’s tough with school and softball at the same time because Berkley is one of the most difficult academic schools but the experience is great,” Decker said. “It hasn’t been too difficult. It’s all going to be worth it in the end. That’s how I think of it. I miss home, but it’s fun being out here and doing my own thing. It’s just good experiencing life outside of Reno. It’s been a fun ride so far. I love it here. The whole experience is great. The campus is great. I love my teammates and my coaches. We all get along great. The overall experience has just been wonderful and it’s going to be unforgettable.”