W.F. West senior Ashlyn Whalen has wanted to play at the highest level of softball possible since she was in fifth grade. Other than eventually making the U.S. Olympic softball team, Whalen’s dream has nearly come true.
The Bearcats’ star shortstop is heading to Boise, Idaho this August to play for Division-I Boise State softball this fall after signing in January 2019.
“It’s crazy,” Whalen said. “It felt so good. It’s amazing.”
Whalen is the top power hitter in W.F. West history. She broke the Bearcats’ single-season home run record in her first season on varsity, as a sophomore in 2018, after blasting 10 home runs. She’s been on a tear ever since.
Whalen transferred to W.F. West her freshman year and was unable to play varsity due to transfer rules. As a sophomore, Whalen burst onto the scene as a second baseman and immediately took over the No. 3 hitting spot in the lineup. She ended the season with a .520 batting average while collecting 52 hits, 43 RBIs and a team-high 48 runs and 10 dingers. She helped the Bearcats finish third in state that spring.
It earned her first-team all-state honors, as well as a first-team all-2A Evergreen Conference selection and a spot on The Chronicle’s All-Area team.
That’s when she realized her dreams were achievable. So she started becoming a student of the game. She began staying late after club team practices the summer following her sophomore year, asking coaches questions and trying to understand the game as best as she could.
“That’s a big part of the game,” Whalen said. “I set a goal and went for it.”
It paid off.
She began receiving offers from multiple Division-I programs, such as Portland State University and Central Washington University. But it was Boise State that caught her attention. She went on official visit to the Boise State campus with six other commits and fell in love with the college city of nearly 230,000 people located in the southwest portion of the state. She was the third commit in the 2020 recruiting class that January.
That spring, Whalen continued her power-hitting display, finishing the season with a .506 batting average, a .606 on-base percentage while knocking in 36 RBIs, scoring 47 runs, tallying nine doubles and resetting her own school home run record by sending 11 balls over the fence.
The Bearcats finished second in state that spring and Whalen went on to garner another all-state and all-area team selection as well as the 2A EvCo Co-Offensive MVP honor.
She’s always been a power hitter, said Whalen, who’s played select ball since she was 9 years old. It’s something that’s just come natural to her. She’s particularly deadly at smashing curveballs, but her favorite pitch to hit is the one right down the middle.
“You can train for it, but just certain people sometimes have it,” Whalen said.
After finishing the past three years with a state title in 2017, a third-place finish in 2018 and second place in 2019, the powerhouse Bearcats were primed once again to vie for another state title this spring. But the novel coronavirus put an end to the season before it ever began, robbing Whalen of yet another season of putting up more videogame numbers.
“Oh, my gosh, it would have been so fun,” Whalen said. “It would have been such a great season.”
She’s spent the past two months training on Boise State softball’s workout schedule, Monday through Saturday, that is posted daily on Instagram and YouTube. It includes warmups, drills and cooldowns.
“It’s really nice,” Whalen said. “They have it organized really well. Stuff they’re teaching us now is what we’ll be doing in college.”
She plans to major in criminal justice at Boise and eventually become a juvenile probation officer.
“I can’t deal with adults,” Whalen said. “I can deal with kids.”
Whalen will move to Boise sometime in August and hopefully compete in fall ball. The regular season goes on during spring. Boise State plays in the 11-team Mountain West Conference, where the Broncos were conference champs in 2018. The Broncos captured their first NCAA regional playoff victory over Stanford in spring 2019. They were 14-11 this spring before the season was canceled in March.
“I’m looking forward to being a part of that Boise State softball team,” Whalen said. “Just having a good culture around me and a family. I love Boise. I love the city. It’s such a student-athlete type town. It’s a great community to be involved in. I’m looking forward to learning more and getting a degree.”