By Vanessa Overbeck
By Vanessa Overbeck
Due in large part to the combined efforts of shortstop Melissa Ascencio and second baseman Cassondra Hemsley, Tiger fastpitch softball is climbing out of its 8 loss deficit.
This dynamic duo is responsible for 95 putouts and more than a third of the Tigers’ total assists. Hemsley has yet to commit an error in a conference game and together the pair accounts for nearly all of Riverside Community College’s double plays.
But the middle infielders’ work doesn’t end at defense; they also lead the team on the base paths. Ascencio is the lead off hitter for the Tigers. She boasts a batting average of .313, has the third most RBIs and the second most hits on the team. Her partner in crime, Hemsley, hits in the number three spot and leads the team with the highest batting average, a whopping .369. She also has the second most RBIs and the third most hits. Together, Ascencio and Hemsley account for more than a quarter of the Tigers’ total runs.
Ascencio and Hemsley’s softball careers began with their parents. Hemsley’s father brought home a flier for little league sign ups to his 6-year-old daughter who took up the sport. Ascencio’s mother signed her up with her sisters and she’s continued to pursue the sport even after her sisters’ interests waned.
“My mom’s been there for every single game since I was little. I have two sisters and we all play different sports. But if there were two games going on at the same time, she would make sure she watched the same amount of each game,” Ascencio said.
“When my brothers and I had games on the same day my parents would separate and watch half of one game and then switch for the second half, so that one of them was always at our games,” Hemsley said.
There were others who influenced the fastpitch careers of Ascencio and Hemsley. Ascencio’s high school coach Al Martinez, who “was very disciplined” shared his love of winning. And Hemsley remembers Jim Tucker fondly; a coach at the recreational softball level who showed her that you can work hard and have fun.
Though the Tigers are more than five games out of first, both Hemsley and Ascencio are confident that the team will make it to playoffs.
Ascencio feels Hemsley’s quick feet and strong arm will earn them more wins. And Hemsley believes that Ascencio’s talent for robbing hitters of base hits will earn the Tigers the chance to compete at the state level. But it’s not all about these two dominating infielders. They’re only part of a greater whole and they will all win together or they will all lose together.
“We work as a unit. Most people just go out there for themselves, but we work together,” Hemsley said.
Overall, Ascencio and Hemsley are pleased with their softball experience at the junior college level and at RCC. They feel challenged and they find the commitment required to rise to the challenge refreshing.
“It’s just harder at this level and it’s better when it’s harder because it makes it more satisfying when you win,” Ascencio said.
“At this level and particularly on this team everybody has the heart and they want to be out here and they make it happen,” Hemsley said.
From the start of the season to now, the middle infielders found much to be happy about in the improvements the Tigers have made in their play.
“We’re getting key outs. We’re jumping on the bunts, making in the hole plays and getting runners out at home,” Hemsley said.
Ascencio’s and Hemsley’s most memorable moments this season occurred against Cypress College on April 1. The quick-footed pair turned a double play on the Charger’s shortstop.
“She’s an awesome ball player with a lot of speed and I was proud to get her out,” Hemsley said.
The Tiger middle infielders are looking forward to a final crack at all the top teams. But regardless of how the season ends, Ascencio and Hemsley are proud of what the Tigers have accomplished.
“If it doesn’t turn out the way we hope, I’m still proud of our season. There were a lot of good games that just didn’t end in our favor. I’d be proud of how we played,” Hemsley said. “From last season, it’s a big improvement.”