After surviving a recruiting nightmare her senior season at Morgan County, pitcher Ansley Dean reflects on that part of her story and how it has turned out for her after her freshman campaign at Georgia Southwestern University. She said, “My eventual signing was a crazy story. I verbally committed in December after my junior year to Chattanooga State Junior College after one of their coaches saw me work out at Diamond Sports Academy (DSA). My pitching and hitting coaches (Ashley and Greg Cowan) had contacted them. They offered me on the spot, wanted me to come visit, but the other coaches hadn’t seen me play an actual game. The pitching coach that had recruited me had left for another position, so I texted the head coach to ask if everything was still OK for me and if that was going to be a problem. She said ‘No. You are still a big part of our 2017 recruiting class’ so I quit worrying about it after that. She then came to see me play. Being the pitcher that I am, and they knew this from seeing my stats, I’m not a strikeout pitcher. She called me the following Monday and said she wasn’t going to be able to offer me because my pitches were getting hit. This was two days before National Signing Day.”
You could still feel the hurt in her voice from that day. She had been committed to them for one year to the day that she got that dreaded phone call. Obviously, Dean was devastated, and for good reason. In this old coach’s book, that’s wrong; just wrong. She continued with her story, “I called Coach Cowan, who was the one who told them about me and got us hooked up in the first place. He was livid. The coach at Chattanooga wouldn’t even answer the phone when he tried to call her. That night I called Coach (Billy) Dooley, my pitching coach at Morgan, crying. I just wanted to play. He had been telling all the other coaches at the State Tournament not to bother because I was already committed. That night he immediately emailed, texted, and called about 20 or so coaches. The next day my phone was going off the hook.”
Dean narrowed her choices down to Walters State JUCO in Tennessee and South Georgia College JUCO. Both schools offered her a scholarship. She decided to attend South Georgia. “When I went to South Georgia it just felt like home; like I was supposed to be there,” the 19-year-old said.
Just days before graduation, and only a week left in school, she got another disappointing call from Coach Nicki Levering, the head coach at South Georgia. “She told me she was leaving for another position. I’m thinking she’s going to drop me, too. I was already planning on where else I was going to go. But then she asked me if I wanted to come with her to Georgia Southwestern University, a Division II school in the Peachbelt Conference,” said Dean.
She and her parents had been planning all along to go to a junior college for two years and then transfer to a Division II school. Now she had an opportunity to fulfill that dream in her freshman season. That whole week was so crazy with graduation anyway. We had to get all the paperwork resent to decommitt from South Georgia and then recommit to Georgia Southwestern. It was wild,” she told us. After the merry-go-round stopped and she finally landed the scholarship, she said, “I’m very, very happy with that decision and how it all worked out.”
Dean played her career under head coaches Doug Connelly and Jason McBay (senior year). She says she earned a spot on the varsity as a sophomore as a swing player catching for the varsity and pitching for the JV. She started full-time circle duty her junior season and never looked back. The Lady Diamond Dogs finished runner-up in the State AAA Tournament that season eventually falling to Calhoun 1-0 in the State Championship final “if” game. The next season, her last, the season ended with another loss to that same squad in the Sweet Sixteen. Dean’s final season proved to be her toughest. She said, “I was really the only pitcher we had, so when I got in a jam I had to work myself out of it. It hurt us down the road when I just got tired.” Her work for Morgan those two seasons earned her All-Region first-team honors 2015 and 2016. She was named to the second team All-State her junior year and first team in her final hoorah.
Dean’s freshman campaign at GSWU had a few highs and lows. In the end, the multi-dimensional player showed her worth by contributing most effectively as a closer on the mound and in left field where she batted .239 in 109 plate appearances and had eight RBI’s. Asked if she saw herself in the same role this coming season, she laughed, “I hope not. I did my best as a closer, and that went really well, but I want to be able to start and finish a game like I did here. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t finish a game. I still have confidence, but it’s been more of a challenge at the college level.”
She also had back-to-back homeruns from her leadoff spot in the lineup against Fort Valley State. “My coach tells me I have the ugliest swing, but somehow you hit the ball. After the two homeruns, she was just looking at me like ‘You’re my pitcher. You’re not supposed to do that.”
Coach Billy Dooley said, “I love that she is at GSW. New coaches with a new attitude that should take that program to the next level. Ansley is actually playing for one of my former players, Karlie Gillam (assistant coach). I coached her at Collins Hill. And, talking with Karlie, they love Ansley at GSW. Even though her numbers from her freshman year don’t show what she is capable of, she impressed the coaching staff all year along. They think she has tremendous potential and expect big things from her over the next three years. I love that she was able to help the team with the bat also. Going in I am not sure if she was going in as a pitcher only, but she hit well enough to be a regular in the lineup and even saw some time in the outfield along with serving as the DP a good bit. Just like her coaches, I expect big things out of Ansley at GSW. Her passion for the game and her drive will only help her to get better each year. I look forward to following her career.”
Greg Sherrill, her former travel softball and hitting coach, said, “Ansley is a smart player – very coachable. She’s so talented, mentally and physically, that she can make a coach look good. She understands the game, and plays aggressively.”
Head GSWU Coach Nicki Levering commented, “Ansley is one of my absolute favorites. I love her grit and passion for the game. She stepped up for us as a freshman in multiple positions along with being our leadoff hitter in a few games, and she is a big reason we made it to the Conference Tournament this year. She is tough and willing to do whatever it takes to make her team successful. I am excited to see what the upcoming season will bring out of her.”
Dean is the daughter of Greg and Victoria Dean. She is now planning on going into education as a pre-K teacher. Asked if she would like to coach one day, she responded, “I’m not sure yet. It’s one of those things that if I get the opportunity to, I probably will. It’s not my primary focus right now.” Let’s just say that any school system that finds out about her background in softball is going to come calling. Good luck during your sophomore campaign, Ansley.