Donner chooses Chipola

Ashlyn Donner signs letter of intent to play softball at Chipola College

Submitted photo New Ulm pitcher Ashlyn Donner signed a letter of intent on Thursday at New Ulm High School to play softball at Chipola College next fall in Marianna, Florida.

NEW ULM — On Thursday, New Ulm High School senior Ashlyn Donner signed a letter of intent to play softball at Chipola College in Marianna, Florida, with her first college season in the circle starting next fall.

Looked to as a leader and a top pitcher for the Eagles, Donner is excited to start her final softball season at New Ulm before making the long journey to the National Junior College Athletic Association DI school next fall to pitch. The NJCAA is a Junior College system that allows athletes to play sports at a college level for two years while helping the athletes work towards higher athletics for the final two years of college.

Although Chipola is a two-year school for sports, it does offer four-year degrees.

Among some of the more notable alumni of Chipola are former Major League Baseball manager Buck Showalter, Russell Martin, a four-time All-Star MLB catcher currently playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, and current MLB free agent and six-time All-Star José Bautista.

Donner said that she’s hoping to continue to improve in her final year at New Ulm and during her time at Chipola in hopes of getting into a top DI school, such as as Arizona State University, her dream college.

Donner described her initial meeting with the coaches from Chipola as a “crazy story.”

After being nominated last year to participate in the Junior All-American Games in Florida, Donner simply went to play with some of the best softball players in the nation. But after her coaches in Florida turned out to be from Chipola, they were impressed with what they saw from Donner and offered her a tour of the school, which she took this past January.

After the tour, Chipola offered Donner a full-ride scholarship, which made the decision to commit to the school quite easy.

Although she wanted to keep her options open after the offer, Donner fell in love with the college, the coaching and how the team practiced, so she made her mind up and put things in writing on Thursday.

The 2017 All-Journal Second Team player and a member of the 2017 Big South All-Conference Team finished last season with a 1.23 ERA and averaged 1.28 strikeouts per inning pitched. She also allowed just a .146 batting average against her.

After continuing to mature and improve in the circle, Donner said that she owes a lot of her success to not only her teammates and coaches, but also her mom and dad for pushing her and believing in her. She said that her dad in particular has put in hours and hours of time catching for her and coaching her.

“He’s done everything for me,” Donner said. “He’s brought me to pitching camps up in the cities. I actually met Jennie Finch when I was younger and that just totally sparked everything and she helped me with pitching too. And I work with the Bethany Lutheran College coach [Dan Nessler] on pitching, too, and my dad found him. He’s [Nessler] helped me improve a lot too. So 110 percent, everything that I’ve accomplished in my improvements has definitely been because of my dad, for sure.”

New Ulm head softball coach Kristi Andersen Loose said that she has never seen someone quite like Donner in her time coaching.

“She has always been the epitome of dedication and commitment to the sport and her talents,” Andersen Loose said. “The craft of pitching has just been her dedication ever since she was a teeny, tiny, little softball beginner. And really through all of my experiences in softball, I have never seen a kid that has advanced and developed as much as she has, especially if I just look at a calendar year. She has certainly set the bar for what I now understand that an athlete is physically capable of doing in one offseason. Truly I’ve never seen a girl advance and improve as drastically as Ashlyn.”

Donner is hoping to end her final season in the circle at New Ulm on a high note.

“[I want] to be a good leader and definitely go to state this year,” she said. “That has been a dream of mine since I was 5 years old. Mankato and Faribault will definitely be our top competition, but I believe that we will make it there this year because I know that every single person on our team wants to not only make it there, but they also want to put in the work to make it there.”