Honor Roll No. 6: Ashley Hansen

During the months of June and July, we are releasing the 10 winners of this award, one by one. Our previously announced members of the Honor Roll are runner Elliot Heath, swimmer Austin Staab, volleyball's Alix Klineman, soccer's Christen Press and football's Andrew Luck. Our sixth announced member of The Bootleg's 2011 Honor Roll is softball's Ashley Hansen

In a June 3rd article we released the 30 finalists for The Bootleg Honor Roll award for the 2010/2011 school-year.

The criteria are as follows:

Each academic year, The Bootleg's Honor Roll will recognize the top ten Stanford student- athletes who have performed at an exceptional level, with athletic accomplishments that are both extraordinary and inspirational. While achieving athletic success, these athletes should also have displayed uncommon leadership, sportsmanship and respect towards their fellow teammates and opponents. Finally, these honorees' performances and actions should also demonstrate their love for their particular sport as well as their school pride, the famed "Spirit of Stanford."

A shortstop can be the heart and soul of a baseball team. Think of Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie Smith and, for the historians among us, Honus Wagner. That's not counting Alex Rodriguez, Robin Yount and Ernie Banks, who each spent much of their careers as the sixes on our scorecards.

So too in softball is shortstop one of the game's most important positions. Few play it better than rising senior Ashley Hansen.

Hansen was named softball's National Player of the Year, the first in Stanford history, despite Olympians Jessica Mendoza and Lauren Lappin's best efforts. (Coach John Rittman is, like Mendoza, a two-time Olympian himself.)

Had the IOC not cut softball from the roster for trampoline jumping or some such, Hansen, currently on the U.S. National Team, would have been a great bet to represent the red, white and blue in the 2012 Olympics, and a virtual shoe-in for 2016. Representing the Cardinal and white instead, Hansen kept alive an impressive streak on the Farm this season. Thanks to Hansen, Stanford softball has now been represented on each of the last 14 All-America Teams.

The All-American and Player of the Year honors are just rewards for Hansen's productivity in 2011. Her 95 hits, .495 batting average and .797 slugging percentage each set school records. The .495 mark was third in the nation, while her batting average, on-base percentage (.558), 95 hits and 25 doubles each led the conference, perhaps the nation's strongest in softball.

Hansen's most impressive stat doesn't show up in any record book though. In a sport which pitchers can absolutely dominate, Hansen struck out five times on the season, in 192 at bats. She drew 26 walks in 2011 for an unheard of 5.2 walks-to-strikeout ratio, and now has 58 walks to 31 strikeouts in her 577 at bats on the Farm.

Hansen was unable to pull the Cardinal across the finish line and into the College World Series, however. After a 10-11 Pac-10 mark, No. 15 seed Stanford hosted and won its Regional, earning a best-of-three Super Regional series at No. 2 seed Alabama. The Cardinal took Game 1 in Tuscaloosa, but would drop the final two games of the series 10-0 and 1-0, as their season ended one win short of the College World Series.

Still, with Hansen and Sarah Hassman (who finished 2011 with a .398 batting average, nearly .100 better than the next Stanford batter) both rising seniors, and No. 1 pitcher Teagan Gerhart (26-13, 1.74 ERA, .199 opponents' batting average, and, yes, Toby's sister) a rising junior, next year looks promising. Here's hoping Hansen and the Cardinal end their recent drought and find a way to get over the hump and into the College World Series.

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