Teams in this post:

Ledford's Best signs with Appalachian

Ledford’s Ashley Best drives in a run with a hit during a game in her junior season. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

Ashley Best set her sights high and now the Ledford softball standout has reached the next level by signing with Appalachian State well in advance of her senior season with the Panthers.

Needless to say, that has made for electrifying times around the Panther program.

“I’m so excited,” Best said.

It also made for a little bit of history.

“It’s really exciting for me and for our program,” said Ledford coach Charlie Brown. “Ashley, as far as I can remember, is my first Division I signee. I’ve had others — I’ve got one at UNC-Wilmington now — who have gone to other schools and later transferred to a Division I one school. But Ashley is my first to go from high school to Division I.”

Appalachian State is a member of the Southern Conference. The Mountaineers were 22-25 last season under coach Shae Wesley.

Best has always been a force at the plate, hitting both for average and power. As a junior she hit .424 with four home runs and 43 RBIs while in the lineup mostly as the designated player due to a shoulder injury.

“I was hoping I would go Division I,” Best said. “I knew if I worked hard, I would get a chance to play softball in college. I didn’t think it would be Division I.”

But she made it happen. Best has a strong throwing arm as a catcher, a nice combination to go along with the robust hitting. Like most top softball players, she has also played a lot of travel ball.

“I just focused on the fundamentals,” Best said. “I want to be as solid of a player as I can be.”

None of that surprises her coach.

“I know how hard Ashley works,” Brown said. “She has come a long way. All that hard work, it’s paying off for her.”

It also turned out that not playing catcher much last year didn’t hold up Best, who still has a senior season to play, at all. She still got noticed and offered a scholarship by the Mountaineers. While she could still catch at Appalachian, Best also has the arm and the speed to be an outfielder and the bat to be in any lineup.

“Coach Wesley saw me catch but she definitely recruited me because of my stick,” Best said.

Mike Duprez can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 218 or