Alyson Mott's high school softball team needed her to be a star.
The 2009 New Albany graduate's freshman season at Capital University showed she might have the tools to be a standout in Division III, too, but greater goals simultaneously derailed that path and fulfilled a lifelong dream.
An outfielder for the Eagles from 2007-09, Mott left the Crusaders after one year to attend Ohio State, which offered her desired interior design degree and the opportunity to be a Buckeye.
Making the team as a walk-on in fall 2010, Mott started only three of 108 games but kept offensive and defensive charts, served as a cheerleader in the dugout and -- most important to her -- wore the scarlet and gray.
"It's all still surreal," said Mott, whose Buckeyes career ended May 10 with a 3-2 loss to Michigan in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal in Lincoln, Neb. "It was always a dream. I only wish I'd have been able to be here for four years, not three. But really, I wouldn't change anything."
As a freshman at Capital in 2010, Mott started 36 games as the Crusaders went 24-15 overall and 9-9 in the Ohio Athletic Conference. Her .394 batting average (39-for-99) was second best on the team, and she was 14-for-17 in stolen bases. But Capital couldn't offer her intended field, nor was it Ohio State, the school for which she grew up rooting and long had desired to attend.
"We talked before her junior year (of high school). She had her wish list of OSU and some other Division I programs," said Patrick Finn, her coach at New Albany. "I told her she had to play a heck of a schedule in major tournaments to get noticed. It takes so much hard work, and Division I coaches generally have an idea of who they want. Capital ended up being a great fit for her, and she had an outstanding freshman year. But she had a dream of being a Buckeye, and considering her major (a move to Ohio State) was beneficial for her. The worst Ohio State could do was say 'no' if she didn't make the team."
Mott had her chance during a walk-on tryout in September 2010, using speed to impress then-coach Linda Kalafatis. Perhaps helping Mott's chances was an injury to shortstop Katie Simonton, one of the fastest players on the team who tore her left Achilles tendon during a fall practice.
Kalafatis' stated timeframe for notifying players whether they made the team came and went without word, so Mott figured she had fallen short. But as it turned out, technical problems with Ohio State's email were to blame for delaying a moment Mott called "life changing."
"I still have the email, and I'm pretty sure my parents do, too. It had the OSU logo and everything on it," Mott said. "Basically it said congratulations, we would like to inform you that you have made the Ohio State softball team and please report to practice tomorrow."
Knowing shortly thereafter she likely would contribute as a pinch runner and spot starter in the outfield, Mott took to helping the team in other ways. She became a motivator in the dugout, tracked pitches and kept offensive and defensive charts for Kalafatis and later coach Kelly Schoenly.
"She was the only person I 100-percent trusted to do that," said Schoenly, who took over in summer 2012 after Kalafatis' contract was not renewed. "That might not sound like a lot but within the program, that's huge. Whatever she did, she took pride in it."
Mott was 5-for-13 (.385) as a Buckeye with three RBI and four stolen bases in seven attempts. She was an Ohio State scholar-athlete in 2012 and received the team's Buckeye Pride Award this year.
"Alyson embodies what it means to be a Buckeye," said Simonton, a 2012 graduate who attended Dublin Scioto. "She loves everything about OSU and being a part of the team. She was a good addition and she gets along with everybody. Every team needs a player like her."
Mott had no trouble recounting her most memorable hit, a two-run triple in the fourth inning of a 16-7 win over Penn State on April 13.
"It wasn't a game-winning hit, and we were up three or four runs at the time," Mott said. "I was definitely nervous hitting in that spot, and it was my first career triple. I could think of a million moments I'll remember from OSU, but that's one of the biggest."
Mott will be a fifth-year senior this fall and plans to graduate in the spring. She usually attends at least one of the New Albany team's 6-on-6 practices on winter Sundays, and at Finn's behest has told her story to players each year.
"I just think it's a remarkable story," Finn said. "Sometimes it's hard for players to think beyond themselves and their situation. You may not be a starter, but there's a chance every day that you can be called up to do something special. And Alyson has never been afraid to go after what she wants."