From Manager To Walk On: Penn State Softball’s Ashton Mensinger Enjoying Unexpected Opportunity
Ashton Mensinger has been part of Penn State softball in some capacity over the past three seasons.
Now, as a senior walk on, the pitcher has finally gotten her first chance to toss from the circle for the Nittany Lions.
An unexpected meeting called weeks before the season with head coach Amanda Lehotak and the rest of the coaching staff gave Mensinger the opportunity of a lifetime.
“She’s been our manager for the past two years,” Lehotak said. “We put out looking for managers, especially looking for pitchers, ’cause your pitchers can only throw so much and there’s nothing like a live arm. So she’s been pitching for us for a year or two.”
“Then this year we know with injuries coming in that we needed somebody else, so we asked her right before Christmas if she would join the roster,” Lehotak said. “I don’t think she believed me at first. She was kind of like, ‘What?'”
Mensinger hadn’t pitched competitively since her high school days as a four-year letterwinner at Berwick High School in Eastern Pennsylvania.
But with the Nittany Lions down to just a trio of potential starters — whose 118.2 innings combined in 2017 were 38 less than that of starting ace Marlaina Laubach — Lehotak knew her team would need to have depth, and it was helpful to have a player coming in that she knew.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I was called up [to the team office] for a meeting and I was waiting for the other managers to show up because I thought it was going to be our travel meeting deciding who was going each weekend,” Mensinger said. “Then all the coaches came in and sat down, and they were like ‘Okay, so, we would like to know if you would like to join the team.'”
But even with the opportunity presented, she still needed to make sure that she could take it.
Mensinger, a supply chain and information systems major, has a full-time position lined up with Mondelez International once she graduates in May. After checking in to see if she could stay with Penn State through the end of its season before starting her job, she knew this was a chance she couldn’t pass up.
She hasn’t registered a start for the Nittany Lions, but has come on in relief 13 times this season — posting a team-low 3.32 ERA.
Her first outings at the collegiate level came during the ACC-Big Ten Challenge against Duke and Virginia Tech in February. Over the course of those four games, Mensinger pitched 7.1 innings and didn’t concede an earned run.
Despite a four-year absence from competitive play, she’s kept a cool head, which is exactly what’s worked for her this season.
“I love the competitive aspect of it and just being able to play,” Mensinger said. “I don’t really think that I get nervous. I don’t know. I feel that I was prepared and ready.”
She and the rest of the Nittany Lions still have a few series left in the season — heading to Indiana this weekend before returning home next week for sets against Bucknell and Illinois at Beard Field.
Whatever the finish is for this team, Mensinger still achieved something few ever reach in sports.
She made it on to a Division I roster, took the field against College World Series powerhouses like Michigan, and played at one of the sport’s highest levels.
“It’s still hard to believe that I’m doing that, just because I grew up watching softball obviously and watching all these games on TV, Division I schools,” Mensinger said. “I never thought that I would be on the field.”