Why Summer Ellyson stuck with Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns softball after getting married
Life beyond college awaited. A wedding was on the horizon. It was Summer Ellyson’s last season playing softball for UL.
Then COVID-19 hit.
With the Ragin’ Cajuns No. 1 in national RPI rankings, the 2020 season was done after 24 games.
Ellyson, who the Sun Belt’s Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2019 when she led the nation in wins with 39, had a choice to continue playing when the NCAA granted another season of eligibility.
By August, degree already in hand, Ellyson was taking classes again.
She married Collin Summers in November, in the middle for preparing for a season slated to open for No. 9 UL on Saturday in Birmingham against Jacksonville State and UAB.
It was a quick call, but a trying one.
It’s been almost six years, after all, since Ellyson was finishing her senior season at Teurlings Catholic.
“It weighed really heavy on me, and I had a hard time with it,” Ellyson said, “but I feel like I made the best decision I can.
“I’m really happy to be here, and I’m ready to go the national championship (tournament) and win it with this team.”
COVID cost the Cajuns
Ellyson was devastated. She wasn’t alone.
“Initially our thought was, ‘Wow, it’s over. Like that,’ ” Collin said. “It was kind of depressing to have it taken away like that.”
“We had a great opportunity. We looked amazing as a team and a staff. And it stung,” Ellyson added. “But, you know, you’ve got to spit on it and move on. You can’t dwell on it.”
But Ellyson, 74-17 with four no-hitters including a perfect game last season and a career 1.43 ERA, did have to ponder what she’d do. And she had a husband to consider.
“It wasn’t just about me anymore,” she said.
“I had to think about what was best for me and my husband and our relationship and if I could afford to stay another year and play.”
She ultimately chose both and now is the SBC preseason Pitcher of the Year.
“I wanted to finish out. I wanted to have my Senior Day,” Ellyson said. “I wanted be on the field and win a national championship with those girls behind my back.
“Once I made the decision to come back my mind’s been set. It was a little tough in the fall, trying to balance a full school schedule and plan a wedding and practice. But we got through it, and now I’m really ready to go.”
Ellyson has no doubt now
If Summer was as nervous as Collin on their wedding day, she didn’t tell.
“I had no idea what was going through her head,” he said of the hours prior to their church ceremony, “but if it was anything like a big game day I’m sure she was pretty cool and calm.”
Another chance to show off that steel is why Collin, also a UL graduate, was thrilled.
“It was a little bit of a relief,” he said, “because I knew it would give her … a chance to at least have another try at making it all the way.”
When UL returned from Christmas break and resumed practice in January, Ellyson sensed something special brewing again for a program that’s been to 11 straight NCAA Tournaments including three WCWS appearances.
“Sure we don’t have all the same key players,” she said, “but I think this is a very, very talented team that can accomplish the goals we had (before COVID).
“Once we came back … I had no doubt in my mind. I was like, ‘This team is frickin’ good.’ ”
No pressure from Glasco
Cajuns coach Gerry Glasco loves having his star pitcher. But the protective coach didn’t pressure Ellyson.
“In her mind it was something she could do,” he said. “My concern for her was just balancing married life. … Especially in the early days of marriage, it’s going to add a little stress that they don’t necessarily need.
“But she’s choosing to do it. And I think she has a great intent. She’s doing it for our fans. She’s doing it for the program, and I admire her that.”
Ellyson’s motivation, however, isn’t just pursuit of unfinished business. There’s also the reality of what comes after college.
If she hadn’t stayed, Ellyson said she’d probably have an office job while former teammates chased a championship. Too driven to sit still, she decided “to live my life a little bit one more year.”
“Then I can settle down to a boring adult life,” Ellyson said.
Collin sees another reason for Summer to enjoy one more season.
“I did push a little bit to go back,” he said, “because I knew in her heart it would make her feel a lot better to finish it out … rather than in the future looking back on it and saying or thinking, ‘Man, I regret not playing.’ ”
Cajuns baseball:UL bullpen loaded with arms