On the softball field, Harrell is not afraid to take what the pitcher is giving as evidenced by her gaudy on-base percentage at whatever level she has played. If that means taking a walk, so be it. If that means getting a big hit, even better.
Off the field, Harrell is filled with the spirit of giving. That spirit was rewarded this year when she was named the Senior CLASS Award winner. The CLASS (Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School) Award is presented to an NCAA Division I senior or graduate student who has “notable achievements in four areas of excellence: classroom, community, character and competition.”
Harrell is the first player from Marshall University to win the award.
“I was surprised,” she said. “Knowing the other girls who were finalists for the award, I was very shocked. I told my coach (Megan Smith Lyon) when she called me, ‘No way, I’m shocked, I’m speechless.’ She was like, ‘I knew it. I’m not shocked at all.’ Just having that support of my coach and my teammates, that’s very fitting. It was great to see that my peers thought of me that way. To have the NCAA think of me in that light, it’s very honorable, and I’m so glad and grateful to have that award.”
Harrell shouldn’t have been surprised, based on her off-the-field activities and her volunteer work.
Her resume includes volunteering with Little League teams, Veterans Affairs hospitals, Hoops Children’s Hospital and being involved with the Marshall Sweetheart Clinic. That spirit, she says, has been with her all of her life.
“I think I’ve kind of always had it,” said the native of Gahanna, Ohio, outside of Columbus. “When I was young, my best friend and I would play like girls do, but we’d play things that would help people. We always went and looked for wild animals. I fostered a baby bird that fell out of the nest at one point. I was in Girl Scouts since I was in kindergarten. I still am a lifetime Girl Scout. That’s one I’d like to continue to give back to. I love it. It brings a joy to see that I’m making someone else’s day … I think that’s important, that everyone else can feel that type of love and passion in something. So I want to give that back.”
Harrell joined AU for AUX Softball in June after a prolific career at Marshall, where she was a five-year letter winner, compiling a .390 career batting average with 53 home runs and 220 RBI. She owns Thundering Herd records with 175 walks and a .562 on-base percentage.
She is the second player from Marshall in AU, joining outfielder Morgan Zerkle, one of the captains for Week 1 of AU Softball in Rosemont.
“I think just making a name at Marshall University, showing that there is talent in other schools other than just Power 5s bringing recognition to the school and growing the program there,” Harrell said.
As for her uncanny ability to get on base, she said it’s been with her for as long as she can remember.
“I went to hitting lessons a lot as a child,” she said. “A big thing as a lefty power hitter is the outside pitch. We drilled, drilled, drilled the outside pitch and being able to get to those pitches and also drilled being able to recognize what a ball was. I think something that helped me was being able to know that I can hit the ball but at the same time, I know it’s a ball when I’m swinging. As I grew up with my dad as my coach, he was always like, ‘Any way you can get on is a way to help our team win.’ I took that to heart. If that’s a base hit, if that’s getting walked, getting hit (by a pitch), I just embraced it the older I got.”
That approach didn’t stop at Marshall.
“When I got to college, our coaches were a lot more like, ‘We want people on base, we want to be able to score runs,’” she said. “With the eye I had, that’s something I bought into, being able to be a threat hitting wise and a threat with the fact that, ‘I’ll be on base.’
“I grew more into it and bought into it more. So now it’s something I embrace, and I love the fear (from the other team) of, ‘Oh, crap, we’re going to walk her.’ If they don’t want to walk me, they’re going to give me something to hit. But if they do want to walk me, I have confidence in my teammates behind me that they can hit me in. I’ve been blessed to have teams and teammates that could protect me in that kind of way, where I am on base and I can score at the same time.”
I’m here, and I’m taking every day one at a time. I’m grateful for each moment.Aly Harrell
It helps that AU’s points-scoring system rewards all skill sets, whether it be power hitting, speed or the ability to coax walks and get on base.
“Yes, I love that aspect where every little thing is accounted for and every little thing is cherished,” Harrell said. “I think that’s really big because stealing bases is important, getting people in scoring position. It’s kind of more inclusive that way. It allows for the fast triple threats like Morgan (Zerkle) to be able to succeed. It allows the power hitters as well. On top of that, it allows pitchers to succeed because they’re getting points for every out. I think it’s really cool they were able to design it in a way that everyone can thrive and that it can be anyone’s ballgame for a winner at the end of it.”
Like all the players in Athletes Unlimited, Harrell is playing for a cause. Hers is Play Like a Girl, an organization “on a mission to level the playing field by leveraging the skills girls gain from sport to propel young women into competitive, male-dominated careers in STEM+ (science, technology, engineering, math).”
“I picked it because I am a woman in STEM, and I eventually want to be a doctor after I’m done playing,” she said. “Growing up, there weren’t many female doctors. Now there are a lot more, and there’s a lot more females in STEM jobs, and I think that’s great … I loved when (AU) sent me the causes list. That was one of the first ones I opened. I was like, ‘Yes.’ It had what I wanted. It wants to empower girls to play sports and find love in sports and be able to carry that into becoming a STEM major and going into a STEM field.”
During any Athletes Unlimited Game, you can find Harrell cheering on and encouraging her teammates when she is not in the game. It’s something she hopes young women and girls see and take with them.
“I just worked the Mizuno camp. That was the big thing I emphasized to them: energy goes so noticed. We notice the little things you do – your little frowns, your little smiles, how you interact with others. Those are big things. That just shows your passion for the game. That’s a big thing for me, my energy and my passion, and I love cheers. That’s how I show my passion for the game. Just being a good teammate.
“Something I’m working on now is not looking to the future too much, kind of living in the moment and loving the moment now … I’m here, and I’m taking every day one at a time. I’m grateful for each moment and taking it in. It’s just a breath of fresh air each day. I love that and just being grateful for where you are, where your feet are and being where your feet are. That would be one thing I would love to tell young girls: be where your feet are.”
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