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Harvey perseveres through season

Panama ace hurler optimistic for senior year

OBSERVER File Photo Panama’s Ashlyn Harvey pitched the Panthers to a Section VI Class D title in the spring of 2019.

A lot of attention was paid to senior student-athletes who lost their winter sports championships and entire spring sports seasons when COVID-19 swept the nation back in March.

Rightfully so, because they would never step on a high school court or field again.

But the coronavirus pandemic was hard on juniors as well.

In a normal year, 11th-graders would use their penultimate seasons to impress colleges one last time before signing national letters of intent the following winter.

Panama’s Ashlyn Harvey never got that opportunity.

OBSERVER File Photo Panama’s Ashlyn Harvey threw six shutouts, including two no-hitters, as a sophomore in 2019.

“Losing that season was really tough for me. … Your junior season is ultimately your last one that counts in the recruitment process,” Harvey said late last week. “It was really tough having to work through the fact that I wasn’t going to get that last (recruiting) season. Coping with that was tough.”

As one of the premier hurlers in the area, Harvey was certainly going to have a few colleges following her in 2020.

The Panthers won the Section VI Class D softball title in 2019 and Harvey was a big reason why.

The right-hander went 13-3 with a 0.94 earned run average in 104 innings pitched in the circle. She struck out 159 and held opponents to a .154 average at the plate.

Harvey threw six shutouts, two of which were no-hitters, and saved one game in 17 appearances.

“Personally, I thought we would be successful, be competitive and potentially be back in that sectional title game,” Harvey said. “Knowing how successful we would’ve been and that that wasn’t able to happen for us was really tough.”

She wasn’t too shabby with a bat in her hands either, hitting .380 with five doubles, a triple and three home runs while driving in 13 runs.

“In the spring, going through the possibility of maybe after two weeks being done for the school year, I tried to practice and have softball be my outlet in every aspect that I could,” Harvey said. “I threw with my dad and my sister at a field not too far away. I also hit and would set up a net in our front yard. There were always a number of things I could be doing. It was nice to do something so familiar to provide a sense of normalcy for me.”

Harvey hoped to make up for lost time with her Jersey Intensity travel team this summer.

But continued struggles with the virus and travel restrictions have continued to wreak havoc.

“This has been a whole different beast. We did a lot of Zoom calls,” Harvey said. “There was a lot of instructional stuff when we were shut down with no games and ballfields closed. As things opened up, my schedule changed six or seven times.”

Intensity played the first three games of the Rock Challenge Cup at the end of June, but rain washed out the second day, including Intensity’s final two games.

“It’s fine for some people, but I like to have a solid schedule to know when I’m leaving and where I’m going,” Harvey said. “Without that consistency, it was tough to stay positive all the time.”

Following an early July tournament in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Harvey announced a verbal commitment to Mercyhurst University.

“I wanted my decision to be made by the middle of August. There have been a lot of coaches who have come and gone throughout the process,” Harvey said. “Coach (Leanne) Baker at Mercyhurst was so great with me. She was always checking in, not just about softball, but checking out how I was doing with everything changing. COVID-19 made it so much harder, but she made the process better.”

Harvey and Intensity wrapped up the New England’s Finest Tournament in Lion’s Lake Park, Voorhees, New Jersey on Monday and will cap their summer schedule this weekend in Vincentown, New Jersey, with the Pennsbury Invitational at Shamong Recreational Park.

“Committing was a huge thing for me. I was very excited to be able to be 100% confident in my decision,” Harvey said. “We are carrying three pitchers this year and we’ve been doing two innings apiece to give equal exposure to our staff.”

Harvey has put her own and her family’s health first all summer long when it comes to participating in tournaments, saying she won’t attend if anybody has been feeling sick or if the tournament is played in a state that is included on the New York state travel restriction list.

“My coach allows me to be accountable for my own practice and my own work, then I meet up with them,” Harvey said. “He expects the same of me as everybody else. I’m expected to do my own stuff at home to get better.”

Now that her summer season is coming to an end, Harvey will focus on Panama athletics for one more year.

“I started throwing with Lauren Larson, who graduated from Panama, back when I decided I would start pitching,” Harvey said. “She’s my pitching coach, but with coronavirus I haven’t seen much of her lately.”

It has already been decided that fall sports — Harvey plays volleyball — will not have the opportunity to compete past Section VI championships. After volleyball, Harvey hopes to play one more year of basketball before capping her Panthers’ career with a final season of softball for Coach Tammy Hosier.

“I really, really hope that we get a spring season because of what spring athletes went through, having that season ripped away,” Harvey said. “I’m trying to stay optimistic. Hopefully we follow the rules around here and hopefully get to regional and/or state championship games for all of our sports.”

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