Digging in for her first appearance at the plate against the Bishop Ryan Celtics on Wednesday (May 8), slo-pitch sensation Aspen Searle of the Bishop Tonnos Titans socked a two-run triple to the gap in left-centre field at Mohawk Sports Complex.
On her second at-bat of the game, Searle then lined another two-two run triple to the fence in left-centre.
Ditto for her third plate appearance – a triple to right which drove in two more runs.
And guess what she did her fourth time in the batter’s box? Yep, another two-run triple. But that last three-bagger came in the bottom of the fifth inning and it lifted Bishop Tonnos a 13-2 mercy rule victory over the Celtics.
Aspen Searles’ U21 Women’s Canadian Fastball team captured the national championship last August.
It was the opening game of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association slo-pitch season for the three-time defending champions from Tonnos.
“On two of the four times that she rolled into third, I probably could have sent her (home) to challenge the cutoff’s arm,” Titans coach Mark Marini said. “But I know she doesn’t care about home runs.”
Searle, a four-year veteran with the Titans, also stood out defensively. She caught a fly ball and, on one other occasion from her position as a rover outfielder, gathered in a ground ball to force a runner out at second base.
“She’s fabulous,” Marini said. “It’s been really special to watch her play.”
It’s the experience gained from participating at an elite level of girls’ softball in Ontario that has made Searle such a star in HWCAA slo-pitch. The 18-year-old has already competed at a handful of Ontario and Canadian age-group championship tournaments. Next month, in Brampton, she’ll be trying out for the Canadian national junior squad.
This will be Searle’s final year at Tonnos, however. In August, she’ll begin a National Collegiate Athletic Association softball scholarship at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
“I don’t really know what to expect,” Searle said of her commitment to the Bowling Green Falcons. “I’m excited. I just want to improve as much as I can. I’m ready to bring my game up to the next level.”
Marini says Searle has been a dominant force every since she entered the varsity league – for players ranging in age from 14-19 – in Grade 9. He vividly recalls her rookie season.
“We won a tournament in Kitchener in Aspen’s first year,” he said. “We played St. Mary’s of Kitchener who had won 86 straight games up to that point. We broke their streak, though, and won the tournament. Aspen hit six home runs against some really good competition. The only problem with that fantastic outing was that everybody in southern Ontario found out who she was in slo-pitch. After that, everybody played her deep. So it’s hard for her to duplicate six home runs.”
In the field for slo-pitch, Aspen could play any position. However, Marini says she’s best suited for rover in the outfield.
“In this game,” Marini said, “ground balls rarely win games. It’s the line drives to the outfield. The way I approach the game, you have two captains. One runs the infield and that would be the shortstop. But more importantly, you need somebody to run the outfield, keep the girls calm and remind them what they have to do and where they should be. It’s a slower game, so sometimes people lose mental focus. Aspen, though, is always on the ball.”
Aspen willingly accepts the role of team leader in a league where many of the players are completely new to the ball, bat and glove sport. Said Marini: “The best part is seeing her attitude, how positive she is and how good she is with the other players.”
Searle, who hopes to eventually earn a spot on the senior national team and play in the Olympics, was named the all-star second baseman at the 2012 18U Canadian championships. Bowling Green coach Shannon Salsburg made the following comments about Searle on the school’s website. “Aspen is an excellent addition to our softball family. She is a tenacious player who will compete right away in the middle infield. Aspen always plays the game hard and her softball IQ is outstanding. Aspen has competed at the highest level in Canada. I look forward to watching her grow and develop here at Bowling Green.”
Three relatives of Searle formerly attended Bowling Green State. In addition, she has family members living just over an hour away in Columbus, Ohio. However, after many visits over the past two years to various schools that offered her scholarships, Searle said she “just fell in love with the campus” of Bowling Green.
Searle says playing slo-pitch is fun and playing the outfield helps improve her throwing arm.
This summer, Searle will be playing junior for the Brantford Bobcats. The Ontario 21U team she got called up to play for last year captured the national championship in Truro, N.S.