LORETTO — Jordy Frank and Ashley Wruble have been here before on the diamond — Frank the established veteran helping freshman newcomer Wruble make a name for herself with a softball program.
Unfortunately for the DuBois Central Catholic graduates, their reunion tour at St. Francis University was cut short this spring when the NCAA made the tough decision to cancel all spring sports due to concerns of the coronavirus pandemic.
The duo first played together as teammates at DCC in 2016. Frank was a junior that year, while Wruble was one of just two freshman on the Lady Cardinal roster.
In two years together, the duo helped lead DCC to a pair of District 9 Class A titles, two appearances in the state semifinals and a 57-3 record over those two seasons. Two of those losses came to WPIAL champ West Greene in the state semifinals
Both proved to be among the best players to ever come through the area, as each won a pair of Tri-County Sunday/Courier Express Player of the Year Awards in their high school careers.
Fast forward four years, the pair were back together on the diamond at the Division I level wearing St. Francis uniforms. And just like high school, they were in the lineup together on opening day — Frank as a three-year starter in center field as a junior and Wruble making her college debut as a freshman at designated hitter (She went 2-for-2 with a double and RBI).
Only this time around, the former Lady Cardinals only got four-plus weeks of the regular season (23 games) together with the rest of their teammates before the season came to an abrupt end before Northeast Conference play had even begun.
Each found out the news that their tournament at Towson scheduled for the weekend of March 13 had been canceled before head coach Jessica O’Donnell pulled the team together later that day to break the bigger news.
“We had just gotten back from our trip to California, and we were planning to leave Thursday for a tournament in Towson,” said Frank, who is a nursing major. “I had clinical that morning in Altoona and the team was planning to leave right when I got back on campus.
“During clinical that day I found out that the Towson tournament was canceled, and when I got back to campus coach told us that our season was suspended for two weeks. I was obviously upset about that because it was our last weekend tournament before conference games started.
“I actually found out the next day that the remainder of the season was cancelled. I woke up in the morning to go to clinical. When we took our lunch break, I got on my phone just to make sure I didn’t miss any updates and I saw that the NEC put out a statement that they had cancelled all spring sports in our conference. My heart was broken, I couldn’t believe it. The worst part was that I couldn’t even be with my teammates during this.
“If I’m going to be honest, I knew after Thursday that it was only a matter of time before they canceled our season. It started with the Ivy League, then Big 10 and PAC 12. I definitely didn’t get much sleep those couple of days.
“I was upset because I couldn’t help but question what could have been. I also couldn’t help but think about what the freshmen were going to miss out on. They hadn’t even been able to see the best part of the season.”
Wruble was at practice that Thursday.
“I had just finished with my hitting group when our coach told us that the Towson tournament had been cancelled,” said Wruble. “She wanted to tell all of us after we finished with our practices so we could continue having a normal day.
“Later that day we had found out our season was suspended for two weeks and we could resume the season after the suspension. It was obviously upsetting, because all we wanted to do was travel and continue playing.
“When I found out the season was canceled, I was in my room with my roommate, Grace Vesco, and we were devastated. I honestly had no words because I was in such disbelief that our season was over. I was heartbroken for my team, especially our fifth-year senior, Halle Marion.”
St. Francis was off to a tough start record-wise (5-18) in five non-conference tournaments, but had also played some much larger D-I schools in those events — including Pac-12 schools Stanford (twice) and No. 2 ranked Washington along with San Jose State. Stanford and San Jose State were ranked just outside the Top 25 when the season was halted.
With a couple weeks now to reflect on things, both say they understand why the decision was made but it still doesn’t make it any easier to accept.
“It still doesn’t seem real,” said Frank. “I can’t grasp the fact that I won’t be going back to school until August. It’s really hard to accept it, especially because of how hard we have all worked since the beginning of the fall semester.
“I understand why these decisions were made, especially now that I can see what all has happened in the world in the matter of two weeks. My perspective has definitely changed in these two weeks.
“I definitely have come to appreciate the small things, like making puzzles, going on walks with my family or shooting hoops with (younger sister) Jessy. I think we are all going to look back at this time and realize how nice it was for the world to slow down a bit.”
As for Wruble, she said, “I honestly am still in disbelief. I should be at school right now preparing for our home opener, but instead I am doing college from home. Don’t get me wrong, I love being home with my family, but our team worked so hard every single day and we should be competing for our (conference) four-peat this year.
“I understand why the decisions were made to cancel season and send students home. It is for our own safety and well-being, but it still does not seem real that it is all over. I know we are going to use this to work even harder and come back stronger next season and earn our fourth straight title.”
While the pair were together in handling the cancellation of the softball season, they now find themselves in different situations in regards to their course work being at different stages of their majors — Frank in nursing and Wruble in occupational therapy.
“The change from in class to online has definitely been challenging,” said Frank. “The professors have done an incredible job keeping us in the loop with assignments and changing to the online format.
“Honestly, the biggest challenge has been the clinicals that we are doing. We aren’t allowed in the hospitals right now, so we are doing online simulations. It’s frustrating to have to do these because it takes away from the purpose of the clinical experience, which is getting to interact with patients. But, I understand the reason for this.”
“Being a freshman, I am still taking my general education classes, which are not difficult to take online,” added Wruble. “It is difficult in the sense that the atmosphere is different though. Not being on campus the rest of the semester is very strange, and I never thought I would be doing college from home. Time management is still very important even with the online courses.”
The Duo’s Play
on the Field
Frank was off to a strong start and was leading the team in average (.268), hits (19), runs (11), home runs (2) and stolen bases (7) while being the lone player to start all 23 games.
“Back in the fall, I had a conversation with Coach Jess,” said Frank. “My goal this season was to be more consistent at the plate. I needed to cut down my strikeouts, big time. I also knew I had some very big shoes to fill and I wanted to do my part.
“I tried a different approach at the plate, and I think it helped with the strikeouts. I still have a lot to work on though.”
After her strong debut in the opening game, Wruble went to play in 18 games, starting 14. She was hit .172 (5-for-29) with the double, four RBIs and four runs scored while playing multiple positions in the field.
“I loved every minute of it,” said Wruble of her freshman season. “On and off the field, our team gets along so well which makes playing incredible. Personally, I thought I had a decent freshman season for what we were able to have. I had the opportunity to play new positions, and it was just a completely new experience.
“Collegiate ball is so different than high school and travel. The game is more fast paced and intense. Having the opportunity to play teams like Washington and Stanford was incredible. I mean, I have watched these teams play since I was younger and always dreamed of being able to compete against them one day.
“Being able to travel to California and play against the No. 2 ranked team in the country was something I will never forget.”
Given all the success they had in high school, both ladies were excited to be on the same team again — even if it was in an abbreviated season.
“Having the opportunity to play with Jordy again is amazing,” said Wruble. “Being able to call her and tell her we were going to be teammates again, honestly is something I’ll never forget. Jordy is truly one of the best athletes and people I will ever know. I am glad that I get to experience this with someone I’ve known for so many years. Being able to say that I have won District 9 titles and hopefully next year a NEC title with Jordy is amazing.
“I think it’s actually pretty cool that I get the opportunity to play with Jordy. Our dads grew up playing ball together, and now Jordy and I get to continue that with each other.”
Frank had the same sentiments.
“I loved playing with Ashley in high school, and I was so excited when I found out that I got to play with her again,” she said. “She has done a great job adjusting from high school ball to college ball. No one really understands until they actually get there.
“It has been so fun watching her achieve these accomplishments and grow as a player. She should be very proud of the impact she has made on the team already. People keep saying we are a young team, which we are, but you wouldn’t be able to tell with how the freshmen have stepped up this season.”
Even with the lost season, the two may have the opportunity to still play two years together and spend five years with the St. Francis program. The NCAA is discussing giving all spring sports athletes an extra year of eligibility because of coronavirus forcing the cancellation of the spring season. The NCAA is reportedly set to vote on the proposal Monday.
Frank, Wruble and their families have already discussed the possibility should it become official.
“I am definitely considering the possibility of playing another year,” said Frank. “I still need to talk to people, but I am planning to look into a master’s program through Saint Francis.
“I think this would be an incredible opportunity for me to further my education, while also getting a chance to spend another year playing the sport I love. This has opened another possibility that I was never even considering, but now I am definitely going to look into it.”
“My parents and I have talked about the possibility of the extra year of eligibility,” said Wruble. “With the program I’m in at Saint Francis, I am already going to school for five years. My fifth year is supposed to be off campus field work.
“If we are given another year of eligibility, I would look into taking more classes on campus to be able to continue playing softball and complete my field work in the summer.”