State softball champion Arlington accomplishes its goals
Photo courtesy Kerri Ladines
Arlington senior Ronnie Ladines, who missed the season's first month and a half with a broken finger, pitches during the Class 4A softball championship against Camas last Saturday. She dominated at state, striking out 55 of the 104 batters she faced while giving up just 15 hits and one run in four games.
Photo courtesy Kerri Ladines
The Arlington softball team celebrates after winning the 4A softball state title.
One by one, the Eagles checked off their goals, right up to the final box: winning a state championship.
A 2-1 victory over Camas in the Class 4A state championship last Saturday in Spokane capped an almost perfect season for Arlington (23-3).
"Our thing this year was to take care of unfinished business, totally stay focused," Arlington head coach Dan Eng said. "They wrote a lot more goals than that, but they accomplished every goal they set this year."
Some of the goals were to beat certain Wesco teams that had given the Eagles trouble the past couple seasons. Others involved setting up team functions to facilitate team bonding. The players wanted a better record than they had the previous season, and wanted to go further in districts than their 1-2 record last year.
All of that led to the 4A state tournament, where Arlington outscored its opponents 24-1 en route to the school's first fastpitch state title.
"It was definitely unreal," senior Hayden Fields said. "Just that last pitch, when we got that last out. It's just so much pride you have in your team. Just an unforgettable moment."
"I just couldn't believe it," said Hayley Fields, Hayden's sister. "I was like, 'Wow. We made it the whole way. Out of all these teams (and) we're the one that made it.' Nobody thought we were going to be able to do it."
Eng pointed to The Herald's softball preview back in March, which focused on the Eagles starting the season without star pitcher Ronnie Ladines. Ladines missed the first month and a half with a broken right index finger.
"The Herald came out to practice and wrote an article, and the headline was, 'How high will the Eagles fly?'" Eng said. "I think we answered that question."
Her finger healed, Ladines dominated at state, striking out 55 of the 104 batters she faced. She gave up just 15 hits and one run in four games.
Ladines is one of five Arlington seniors -- along with Lynsey Amundson, Marisa Rathert and the Fields sisters -- who have been playing together since Little League.
"Our seniors started in Little League together and it was so cool to reach that goal with all these girls before we left," said Hayden Fields, who hit two home runs and drove in six runs in a 12-0 quarterfinal win over Todd Beamer. "It's kind of like the legacy we get to leave behind."
Rathert, the Eagles' center fielder, made one of the biggest plays of the year in the championship game. Running back, she made a highlight-reel catch, complete with taking out part of the temporary outfield fence as she tumbled over it with the ball in her glove.
Here's a screengrab of Marisa Rathert's catch in centerfield. One of the best softball plays I've ever seen. twitter.com/swaney_aaron79…
— Aaron Swaney (@swaney_aaron79) May 26, 2013
"When the ball was hit, it was a really deep hit fly ball, so I figured the fence would come eventually," Rathert said. "So I put my hand out. I wasn't thinking about it really. I was just keeping my eye on the ball. The fence just kind of showed up. It was really exciting. Most of the parents behind the fence were Camas fans, though, so it was kind of scary at first."
Eng said the catch was possibly a championship-saving play.
"For that game, for that series, for that moment it was astronomically the largest catch that anybody could do in a state-championship game," Eng said. "Because of the (tie) score. It was that tight. Every bit of heroics by each individual player, especially Marisa Rathert, basically saved the game."
One inning later, Amundson grounded into a fielder's choice to second base that scored what turned out to be the winning run.
"I couldn't be prouder," said Kim Fields, Hayley and Hayden's mother who also had a freshman, Kendall Fields, on the team. "I have three girls that were on the team. That's the only time in their softball career that they'll ever play together. That's pretty special."
Following the victory over Camas, the team began a celebration that lasted a couple days. After leaving the field, the team went out for dinner. "We almost got kicked out of Red Robin because we were being so loud," Rathert said.
On Sunday, when the Eagles arrived home in Arlington, the fire department escorted them to the high school.
"We drove down Main Street," Arlington athletic director Tom Roys said. "The community came out to welcome them back. It was a cool thing. It was awesome. It was something they'll remember for a long time."
Someone modified a sign in downtown Arlington, updating it with the championship. Where the sign used to read "1986" under state softball champions, someone taped up a piece of paper that read "2013."
Eng said it was about time.
"This team had these seniors and for the last few years they could have done it," he said. "They could have gone to state all four years. They took care of unfinished business, and they went out with a win."
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