Ali Hassler named Putnam County Softball Player of the Year

Tuesday, July 9, 2024
Greencastle sophomore Ali Hassler threw 139 innings in 2024, posting a 3.42 ERA, allowing 174 hits, 113 runs, 68 earned, and 19 walks against 201 strikeouts, helping to lead the Tiger Cubs to a Putnam County Softball Tournament title and a first sectional title in 26 years. Hassler’s efforts earned her the nod as Putnam County Softball Player of the Year.
Banner Graphic/TRENT SCOTT

Ali Hassler didn’t get the leisure of easing into high school softball play at Greencastle.

The sophomore pitcher was thrown right into the mix as a freshman, throwing 154 innings and helping a Tiger Cub team that had shown some promise reach the .500 mark in 2023 at 14-14, though without any trophies to show for its efforts.

With questions about the offense the main focus coming into the season for Greencastle, Hassler helped the team bridge the gap until it could find the answers, leading the Tiger Cubs to a Putnam County Softball Tournament title and a first sectional title in 26 years.

Hassler’s efforts earned her the nod as the 2024 Putnam County Softball Player of the Year.

The sophomore held a 3.42 ERA over 139 innings, allowing 174 hits, 113 runs, 68 earned and 19 walks against 201 strikeouts.

Defensively, Hassler had 35 putouts and seven assists in 46 chances while in the batter’s box, Hassler hit .268 with 19 hits, 10 RBI, four doubles and two home runs, walking seven times with 24 strikeouts for an on-base rate of .358, slugging rate of .408 and OPS of .766 during the 2024 season.

Pitching had been a question in the 2023 season that Hassler was able to answer early on, taking a Clay City team that would reach the semistate later that year to extra innings.

“As a freshman, I didn’t know I was going to start the very first game but I’m glad I did get to pitch that day,” Hassler said. “I had 17 strikeouts against Clay City and though we lost by a run, I was proud of myself and the softball team as we held a good team off for a while.”

Hassler continued to be a strong spot for Greencastle, recording a school-record 213 strikeouts as a freshman before the season came to an end in the sectional opener against South Vermillion.

After a strong first year, Hassler said the coaching staff said the wanted to see a continued upward trajectory the following season.

“I just wanted to work on getting my pitches down,” Hassler said about her offseason focus. “The coaches wanted me to improve, of course, but they wanted to see me show more improvement as a sophomore than I did as a freshman.”

Once the season ended, Hassler jumped right into summer play with Indiana Stars.

“During the summer, I’m the main pitcher of my travel ball team,” Hassler said. “Even when I’m not at tournaments, I’m working on my pitching in other ways. During the winer, I take about a month off to give my arm a break.”

Despite the heavy workload during the spring, Hassler said she kept the pace going while playing travel ball.

“It depends on the time limit for each game,” Hassler said about the amount of innings she threw in a typical outing. “For showcases, games run around 75-80 minutes, sometimes as few as 65 minutes.

“Some games it might be three innings, sometimes five innings. It just depends on how quick we turn over. While I’m not sure how many innings in total, I would say it is around 100 innings.”

Following her month-long break, Hassler said she eased back into throwing while working around other commitments.

“I always stretch a lot to help avoid pulling muscles,” Hassler said about getting back into pitching shape. “I do an hour of pitching every so often, keeping track of my speed and spin.

“Since I also cheer, I have to work around that to make sure I get my softball stuff in too.”

Heading into the 2024 season, Greencastle had to replace its top six batters from the previous year, leaving much of the early burden placed squarely on Hassler’s shoulders while the offense sorted itself out, though the sophomore said the coaching staff didn’t want her to change her style as a result.

“The coaches just told me to do what I do in the circle,” Hassler said. “The defense would be behind me to back me up.

“We did pretty good offensively for losing six seniors from the prior year and really improved from the start of the season to the end.”

The season got off on the wrong foot as Greencastle was hammered 14-2 by Riverton Parke, though Hassler said the team went out aiming to do what it could against a strong opponent.

“We knew Riverton Parke was a really good team and went into that game trying to do our best,” Hassler said. “We knew we would get better and go up from there.”

Weather delays saw a packed early-season schedule reduced to three games before the Putnam County Softball Tournament.

While the delays meant the team didn’t have as much live experience as it wanted, Hassler said it did allow the squad to keep working on its defense, a crucial component to its tournament win and banish some bad memories from the previous year’s final.

“Our goal was to get past Cloverdale first and then play whoever won between North Putnam and South Putnam,” Hassler said. “We practiced a lot defensively before the county tournament began.

“The previous year, when we went into extra innings, (North Putnam’s Emma Williams) hit a home run to win the game and I was sad as, if I didn’t throw her that pitch, they might not win that game,” Hassler added about the 2023 final, a 7-5 Cougar win over Greencastle in 12 innings. “It was great we won this year as we got the win back from the previous year.

“Even when the final went to extras, I didn’t have any nerves and knew if I had confidence in myself, I would keep getting the next three outs and eventually the team would back me by getting the hits we needed.”

Two days after the county win, Greencastle lost a close game to Cascade and, despite the loss, Hassler said it was one of the best games the team played all year.

“It felt really good,” Hassler said. “The previous year, we lost by a lot, so to keep them down was good.

“Before the last inning, it was only 1-0 but we had an error or two that allowed them to get to 4-0. Still, I felt proud of the way we kept them in check.”

With only some spot starts from Haley Iseman to relieve Hassler, the sophomore continued her workhorse ways in the circle come what may, trying to keep a level approach each outing regardless of the highs and the lows of the year.

“I just try my best whenever I go out pitching and hitting,” Hassler said. “Against Parke Heritage, I had 18 strikeouts on a day where I didn’t really have my speed but had the spin to get those strikeouts.

“Even after the bad game against Owen Valley, I just needed to go out the next night, be myself and do what I can do and hopefully the team will back me up and get the runs to stay in the game.”

While not all the numbers were as good as the previous year, one area that helped Hassler was a dramatic reduction in walks, having given up 49 as a freshman compared to 19 as a sophomore.

“I really improved over last year when it came to walking batters,” Hassler said. “I kept those down a lot from the last year.

“I know I still took a lot of batters to 3-2 counts and, when that happened, I took a deep breathe and either got a strikeout or looked for contact for the defense to take care of. The games where I got hit hard were usually when we already faced a team as they knew my pitching and timed me up well to get a lot of hits off me.”

After a tough stretch of conference games in May, Greencastle looked to be building momentum heading into sectional play until it was halted by South Putnam in the season finale, a loss that saw the Putnam County Paddle head south for the summer.

“Since I was pitching, I knew South Putnam would know what was coming and they timed me up well from the county tournament,” Hassler said. “They hit the ball well and we couldn’t get the runs back to win.”

The loss didn’t deter the Tiger Cubs once sectional play began, however, as a 9-0 win over North Putnam and an 11-2 win over South Vermillion set up a rubber match with the Eagles for the sectional title.

“We were excited to play in sectionals,” Hassler said. “We were on top of it both hitting and pitching-wise.

“We were excited to make it to the final and put our all into it.”

In the sectional final, South Putnam took a 1-0 lead before Hassler tied the game at 1-1 after two innings with a solo home run.

The Eagles retook the lead in the third before the game entered a stalemate until the seventh when the Tiger Cubs scored four runs to win the Southmont Sectional title 5-2.

Hassler said after giving up the lead early, the team was determined to get the run back and keep the game close, two things it didn’t do just six days prior in the 6-0 loss to the Eagles.

“We wanted to get the run back to be in the game while also holding them off so they didn’t score any more runs,” Hassler said. “We kept trying to get more runs and eventually we tied it before Lilly (Franklin) got the home run to get us past them.

“A lot of people were excited we won the sectional after the huge gap between wins and made the regional for the first time in forever.”

Greencastle hosted Cascade in the regional round, a 13-1 loss in five innings to the eventual Class 2A State Champions.

Despite the finish, Hassler said the team met the goals it set out for itself and showed the kind of improvement that a young team needed to for the future.

“We felt really good that we had a winning season secured,” Hassler said. “Our first goal was to win the county tournament and we succeeded in that.

“We had a second goal of winning the sectional, so we made both of those goals. We knew Cascade was a really tough team but I’m also glad we at least made it to the regional.

“We all improved positionally as well as with our batting as the year went on,” Hassler added. “It was a really good season altogether.

“Individually, I felt I did pretty good. I reached my goal of hitting a home run, getting two this year, and pitching-wise, I felt I improved a lot by not giving away as many walks as last year.”

For her part, Hassler said tightening up her control even more was on the docket during the summer while looking to make even more strides as a junior next spring.

“It’s pretty much the same thing as last summer,” Hassler said. “It’s about working on spin and location, hitting spots and making an even bigger leap my junior year than my sophomore year. I’d like to work on my play outside of pitching at first and third base as well.

“I want us to win the county and sectional again, or to at least get to the final again. Long term, a goal of mine is to break the four-year record for strikeouts after breaking the single season record as a freshman.”

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