When the Orange County softball team takes the field in the state semifinals on Saturday, their leader Aysha Richardson will be taking the mound. The OCHS senior is looking to lead her team to a state title before continuing her softball career at Virginia Tech.
Richardson has dominated opposing batters for years. "You don't want to bat against her," says Hornets head coach Doris Buzzell. "You don't want to be in that box, because she's going to take you down. Go sit on down."
Richardson has thrown 256 strikeouts so far this season, including 17 in Orange County's 1-0 win over James Madison in the state quarterfinals. The win marked her final home game at OCHS, before the state tournament continues at Westfield. For the final out of the game, Richardson struck out the Warhawk batter swinging.
"It was just good to end out with a strikeout since that's what I'm kind of known for," she said.
Even though she's known for strikeouts, Richardson doesn't plan on pitching anymore when she joins the Virginia Tech softball team.
"She does not like to pitch, she'd rather play shortstop or outfield," says Buzzell.
"I like being able to move and not stand in a circle, so I think that's the main thing," Richardson added.
She still pitches in almost every game, but Buzzell says she has let her star pitcher play elsewhere before.
"One game, we were ahead and we put her into catching. She wanted to catch and I'm like, 'okay Aysha, go ahead, but you know you're getting back on the mound.' And she ended up back on the mound that game, but she'll go wherever you tell her."
Because she's been so dominant on the mound, Richardson knows it's surprising that she prefers to play elsewhere.
"Most people say, it's crazy, but I like to have my space. And to have so much pressure on me, is just not me."
Buzzell disagrees, saying that Richardson thrives in high-pressure situations.
"You just know she's always going to come through for you. I mean, there's no other words for it. If they hit her, she's going to go for the next one, and sit her down."
With Richardson on the mound, the Hornets have put together a 23-4 record this season and are now two wins away from a state title. She'll be back on the mound Saturday at states, in what could be the final weekend of her pitching career, hoping to end on a high note.
"It's crazy to actually get here with the young group that we have," Richardson said of the Hornets' first trip to the Group AAA state tournament. "To get this far, it's kind of like we want to keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get all the way."