Versatile power punch

That now-legendary long ball is long gone. But near five years after Adriel Foxley’s “holy-cow-did-you-see-that?” home run during a West Central District tournament softball game in Spanaway, seems as if people still remember it.

  • Monday, June 2, 2008 7:09pm
  • Sports

Adriel Foxley

That now-legendary long ball is long gone. But near five years after Adriel Foxley’s “holy-cow-did-you-see-that?” home run during a West Central District tournament softball game in Spanaway, seems as if people still remember it.

Foxley, the former Auburn High star who’s now finishing her career at Eastern Kentucky University, certainly remembers.

“We were playing on that field by the concession stand,” she said of the permanent structure that sits in the commons area behind right field of one of Sprinker’s Rec Center’s multiple diamonds. “When I was going down to first base, I saw (the ball) hit the roof.

“I knew I hit it hard – but not that hard.”

Oh, yeah – It was that hard.

These days, Foxley still wields a heavy hammer – as a sophomore for the Colonels in 2005, she nailed one that hit the opposing team’s bus, which was parked well beyond the fence.

Along with swinging a big bat, she’s also swinging multiple duties a double-major student (criminal justice and juvenile corrections) and, most important, as a mother to almost-2-year-old daughter Jael.

Still, one will hear nothing but a smile in Foxley’s voice, even if it’s a cross-continent conversation from her room in Richmond, Ky., to the place in the far upper left corner where she grew up.

“One of our players’ moms is my nanny, and she travels with us all the time,” said Foxley, who otherwise is raising Jael on her own. “I would not be here without her.”

Pulled in multiple directions though she is, Foxley’s focus on the diamond has helped her produce a .338 batting average through the end of last weekend, second-highest on the Colonels. That offensive production includes four homers, a team-leading 12 doubles, 35 RBIs (second), and 35 runs scored (first).

Just she was at Auburn, Foxley is Eastern Kentucky’s first baseman, and has started each of the team’s first 40 games.

She was named the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week after going a combined 6 for 7 with 10 runs scored and 10 RBIs (with a school record-setting eight in one game) in two games against Appalachian State in the season-opening K-Club Classic at Kennesaw, Ga.

While she downplayed the honor, there was no denying that the performance provided her with a boost.

“I was really seeing the ball well – everything just came natural at that point,” Foxley said. “That was something that I needed as a player. Last year, I kind ofstruggled a little bit (hitting just .255). But it was like, ‘OK, I’m actually back to myself at this point.’”

Added Colonels coach Jane Worthington, “She’s having a good year, but I expect her to have a good year every year. She’s hitting the ball real well, and plays great defense.”

Foxley had two big seasons to start her career at Eastern Kentucky – a school she didn’t even consider right away, planning instead to attend a junior college for a year, then transfer.

“(But) they offered me the same amount of (scholarship) money to play Division 1, so I went there,” Foxley said.

“It was one of those things that may have been meant to happen,” Worthington said. “What she wanted to major in (criminal justice), we’re one of the two or three best in the country.”

As a freshman, she led the Colonels with eight home runs, 11 multiple-RBI games and a .528 slugging percentage. Her batting average that year was .307, and she earned All-OVC second-team status.

The following spring, she was even better, setting the pace for Eastern Kentucky with a .391 batting average, 59 hits, 36 RBIs and 10 home runs. Foxley was a first-team all-conference selection.

She redshirted in 2006, giving birth to Jael on May 9. But while that might have been the end of the softball line for other new moms, Foxley knew she wanted to play again.

For her, “again” was last spring. But in more ways than one, it wasn’t easy.

“I had some struggles with my coaches and (fellow) players just because I wasn’t going to be the same person coming back,” Foxley said. “I wasn’t able to go out and hang out. I think I hit .255, and it wasn’t good for me. It was just being out of the game for a year and a half, and not even picking up a ball for a year.”

Foxley got through it. She says she’s a better player for it – but not just because of her impressive box score.

“Even going through that time I had off and was just watching my team, I learned a ton,” Foxley said. “Sometimes, Coach says you don’t have enough effort, and you think, ‘My gosh, how much more can I give you?’

“But just playing through these years and sitting that year off really opened my eyes to being smarter, being a team player,” she added. “It’s not just thinking about yourself, but about that person next to you and what they’re doing day to day.”

Worthington was hopeful that Foxley would take see things exactly that way.

“If any of them could coach before they play, it would make the a better player,” she said. “When you’re in the midst of it, you don’t realize that you could work a little harder or do a little better. … You come back, and it makes you and your teammates better.”

Ever the ambitious one, Foxley doesn’t intend to stop once she has that criminal justice degree. She wants to start work toward her master’s in sports administration. Eventually, she says, she’d like to return to Auburn, but didn’t rule out staying put if a good job opportunity presents itself.

Eastern Kentucky concluded the regular season last weekend at Eastern Illinois, taking two out of three games to finish with a 17-10 Ohio Valley Conference record and a 28-20 overall mark, third in the 10-team league behind champion Jacksonville State. Next up is the OVC tournament Thursday through Saturday. The tourney champion advances to the NCAAs.

That’s what matters to Foxley.

“It’s almost like I don’t even look at myself at this point,” she said. “As long as the team is doing well.”

That’s the kind of thing Adriel Foxley figures she’ll remember.

Just like that long-gone long ball.

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