Liberty’s Leshnack concludes standout softball career

Special to Tribune Chronicle / Ursuline College Liberty graduate Leah Leshnack has concluded an excellent collegiate softball career at Ursuline College in suburban Cleveland.

“She is the player every coach dreams of having on their team.”

That’s how Ursuline College softball coach Sue Woodford feels about Leah Leshnack, the Liberty High School graduate who just completed a prestigious career as an infielder with the Arrows.

“She has been a great leader as a captain for the past three seasons, inspiring those around her to work at a high level, lift weights, put in the extra work and importantly to do the right thing on and off of the field,” Woodford said.

Leshnack was a multisport athlete for the Leopards, but knew she wanted to play softball at the next level.

“All along I knew that I wanted to pursue softball at the collegiate level. I loved volleyball and basketball as well, but softball had been my first love.

“I chose Ursuline because of the people. Kind, helpful, and encouraging, the team, coaches, college staff, as well as the faculty made my decision easy for me,” Leshnack said.

Leshnack leaves Ursuline — located in the Cleveland suburb of Pepper Pike — as one of the program’s all-time hitters. She owns the all-time career home run mark with 14 HRs, while also owning the program’s all-time single season home run record with seven in 2018.

On March 2, 2018, she blasted four homers in a single game against Nyack College, and is one of the very few players in NCAA Division II history to accomplish that feat.

She earned NFCA second team All-Midwest Region honors, was nominated for All-Conference and was named Athlete of the Year at Ursuline.

Woodford believes that Leshnack gave her team the ability to compete against good programs.

“It is the day-in and day-out consistency at the plate and on the field that has allowed Ursuline College to play some of the best teams in D-II softball. Our preseason is typically very tough playing teams out of the South, Atlantic and Midwest regions.

“Leah’s leadership and inspiration helped her team to be prepared and to compete at that level,” Woodford said.

Leshnack is proud to represent the Mahoning Valley at the next level.

“I do enjoy the opportunity to have represented Youngstown at the Division II level.

“The records that I hold at Ursuline are a huge reflection of the coaching staff at Ursuline and of my off-season hitting coach, Jim Devine, who is the owner of Diamond 9 in Austintown. It has been an honor to represent my hometown and I am both blessed and grateful to have gotten to do so,” Leshnack said.

Things weren’t always easy, as Leshnack battled injuries through much of her collegiate career.

“In my five seasons at Ursuline, I have broken five bones. My freshman year, I broke my leg and ankle; junior year, fractured my thumb, which put me out for all but five games of the season and granted me a medical redshirt; and I fractured my spine sometime between last season and the beginning of this fall.

“These injuries have taught me to persevere and to train as hard as I can to be the best athlete and teammate that I can be. You never know when your last moment with your sport could be,” Leshnack said.

Woodford has seen Leshnack grow as an individual.

“Leah makes every practice count, every rep, going through every line, finishing every drill, beating records during standards testing, etc. She wants to succeed and was willing to do the work to make it happen. She is an inspiration to her teammates and coaches.”

Leshnack appreciates the impact Ursuline has had on her.

“The best part about playing softball at Ursuline has hands down been my teammates. Coach Woodford signing me onto the Ursuline Arrows gave me the opportunity to meet the most amazing humans and teammates that I could have ever asked for. These women are what I will remember most from my duration in the Ursuline athletics program. I cannot thank Coach Woodford and Coach Leskovec enough for the opportunities they have allowed me.

“Collegiate softball has taught me so much about hard work, persistence and character. It truly has shaped me into the woman that I am today,” Leshnack said.