After a busy weekend of softball, the NCAA Super Regionals are set for this Thursday-Sunday. The No. 5 overall seed, the Alabama Crimson Tide, is one of the 16 teams still playing for a chance to advance to the Women’s College World Series to be held in the first week in June.
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Alabama (43-19) advanced through the Tuscaloosa Regional with a narrow 1-0 victory on Sunday against Middle Tennessee in a game it had to win to keep its postseason hopes alive. The Tide had lost to Middle Tennessee, 4-1, earlier in the day.
The Crimson Tide will host No. 12 Northwestern in the Tuscaloosa Super Regional.
🐘 SUPERS BOUND ‼️
For the 17th time in program history, @AlabamaSB is headed to the Super Regionals! #SECSB x @NCAASoftball pic.twitter.com/kWIc7PLpXf
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) May 21, 2023
One of the reasons Alabama is two wins away from advancing to the program’s 14th Women’s College World Series (and third in the last four tournaments) is the play of infielder Ashley Prange, a graduate transfer in her second year with the Tide after three at Ohio State.
Prange had four hits in 12 at-bats in four games over the weekend, adding a walk and crossing the plate twice. Including the postseason, Prange leads the team in home runs (16, twice as many as the next closest player), total bases (111), runs scored (43), slugging percentage (.649) and on-base percentage (.433), while ranking second in hits (54), RBIs (45) and batting average (.316).
Despite Alabama’s decorated softball history, Prange has never played in a super regional before. The New Palestine, Indiana, native never advanced through the regional round at Ohio State, and Alabama bowed out in the regionals of last season’s tournament. Yet, Prange knows that however far she and her teammates advance this season, her identity is rooted in something greater.
“Sports are what you do, not who you are,” she wrote in February for RollTide.com.
Prange admits that, while she was at Ohio State, her world revolved around the softball field. When she struggled, she felt like a disappointment to everyone around her. Living that life led her to become depressed.
“It took everything I had to get out of bed in the mornings,” she wrote. “I was lifeless. I felt lost. I was also a team captain, but how could I be a source of positivity and encouragement for my teammates when I couldn’t even be that for myself? … I had no idea how to get out of the hole I was in.”
A heart-to-heart conversation with a Christian friend eventually led Prange to step out in faith and enter the transfer portal.
“I didn’t know where I would be going, but I had a sense of peace about it,” she wrote. “I was completely leaving it in God’s hands, and I trusted in Him with any move He wanted to make.
“I prayed for guidance in leading me to a place where I was loved for not just being an athlete, but for who I was off the softball field too. … I prayed for a platform to use for something bigger than myself, and I prayed for the courage to say ‘yes’ to whatever opportunity would give me those things.”
From the moment she stepped off the plane in Tuscaloosa, she knew she was where she needed to be.
“God had directly answered my prayers right then and there,” she wrote. “… I know I have a higher purpose than being a softball player now.”
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On her Twitter bio, Prange lists the Bible verse Psalm 46:5, which says, “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” On Instagram, she declares that it’s “all for His glory.”
Prange now feels emboldened to speak openly about mental health struggles and about Jesus Christ, who is with her through it all. Attentive fans will even notice a tattoo on her right arm that says “Spirit lead me.” On her left wrist is another tattoo that simply says “Grace.” And stitched onto her fielding glove are the words “only Jesus.”
Earlier this month, Prange was a guest on the podcast “From the Players” hosted by Northwestern softball player Sydney Supple. Prange was able to speak about her faith in Christ and her winding college softball journey that is coming to a close.
“Being given a platform, being given a way to impact people and being accepted for being an advocate for Jesus and boldly sharing my faith … I’ve been super fortunate that it’s been well received and it’s been something that’s been really appreciated,” she said on the podcast.
Prange continued later, “There’s 4,000 people in our stands who may never have a face-to-face interaction with me, but at least three times a game they’re hearing ‘Oceans’ (by the worship group Hillsong United) when I walk up to the plate. So even if they never meet me, they’re kind of seeing what I represent. And my goal all along was to do all of this for God’s glory.”
Prange and Supple are forever sisters in Christ. Yet little did they know when they recorded the podcast episode that in less than a month they would be pitted against each other for a chance to go to the Women’s College World Series.
Game 1 of the best-of-three Alabama-Northwestern Super Regional is set for Friday at 8 p.m. ET.
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