Five big questions heading in

With Ladines back, is Arlington the favorite?

The Arlington captain missed the first 11 games of the season with a broken finger, but returned to the Eagles with a force in her senior year. Ronnie Ladines has a .519 batting average, five home runs and six doubles while helping the Eagles go 6-1 since she returned full time (she pitched two innings against Mariner on April 22 in a rehab-like assignment).

On top of that she has returned to the mound where she is posting an earned-run average of 0.16 while providing a calming presence for the Eagles.

“The leadership, the calmness that she provides, the minute she came back, you could tell it changed,” said Arlington coach Dan Eng. “The team settled down.”

Add Arlington leadoff hitter Hayley Fields, who is riding a 19-game hitting streak — the Eagles have played 19 games this season — and Western Washington-bound catcher Lynsey Amundson and the Eagles look poised to improve on last year’s district tournament finish, when they went 1-2 in the postseason.

“We’re peaking at the right time and the bats are working,” Eng said. “When you come to this point of the season it’s the bats that you need to win games. You’ve got to hit.”

Which 3A North team is the most dangerous?

The Meadowdale softball team, the top squad in the Wesco South 3A league, hasn’t lost a league game all season. Shorecrest’s only league losses were to Meadowdale. Glacier Peak and Mountlake Terrace also defeated the top team in the 3A North, Marysville Pilchuck.

“The south is strong,” said MP head coach Aaron Zachry. “We weren’t really sure going into it. You keep an eye on the games and the schedules and as things went on I wasn’t sure how we were going to do. We’ve been competitive with (the south teams). So we’re pretty excited. We think if we play well we’ve got a good shot to go to state.”

The Tomahawks are looking to reverse their fortunes against the south in the district tournament. They face Mountlake Terrace in the opening round. Marysville Pilchuck split two games against the Hawks, with each team winning at home.

As they head to the postseason, the Tomahawks have spent their time focusing on one thing.

“That’s our key word: Finishing,” Zachry said. “We have to finish; have to play seven innings. … We’ve really focused the second half of the season on trying to finish games. We finally got over the hump.”

How dangerous is the young Jackson team?

With so many strong teams in the 4A tournament, the young Jackson squad is happy to sit back and see if the Timberwolves can pull an upset or two.

“We’re an underdog. We’re definitely not favored,” said Jackson head coach Kyle Peacocke. “Arlington, Snohomish, Cascade and Lake Stevens are definitely the teams that are favored, so we’re just going to try to go in and just do the best we can.”

The Timberwolves return to the district tournament where they went 0-2 last year. Peacocke said there are a few juniors who were on the team last year, but the bulk of his young team is getting their first taste of the postseason where they hope to win a couple more games.

“Basically our mindset is we just want to play our best. We feel like people don’t want to play us because we feel like we have nothing to lose, being so young,” Peacocke said. “We feel like we haven’t really played our best game against those top teams yet. We think if we play our best game we can compete and play with those teams.”

One blow to the Timberwolves chances came when their lone senior, star shortstop Jessica Roy, hurt her knee in a game against Cascade last week when she abruptly stopped running home to return to third base on a fly ball to center field. Roy was being reevaluated by doctors Monday after being in a leg brace all week.

What makes Snohomish the No. 1 team in 4A?

The best answer — everything.

There isn’t much that the Panthers can’t do. They have a group of hitters led by juniors Trysten Melhart and Katlyn Purvis, and senior Anna Pisac that rivals any trio of hitters in the state. They have two shut-down pitchers in freshman Alyssa Simons and junior Bailey Seek. And they have a defense that very rarely makes any mistakes.

Simply put, this team is loaded.

Both Seek and Simons have an earned run average under 1. As a freshman, Simons has started 10 games and has struck out an astounding 123 batter.

Just as impressive is Melhart’s average at the plate of .682, good enough to set the school record for a third consecutive season.

“You look at this group and you are trying to figure out what’s the strength?” Kennedy said. “I don’t think it’s so much what’s the strength, but it’s where do you find a weakness?”

And as great as Snohomish’s great players are, it is depth that has the potential to carry the Panthers far in the postseason.

“You look at some of our games and sometimes it’s our bottom three that are getting the RBIs and scoring the runs,” Kennedy said.

For the teams in the 4A district tournament, that’s a scary thought.

Who is the best pitcher in the Wesco 3A South?

The South is loaded with talented pitchers. Alyssa Reuble from Meadowdale might be the star that shines the brightest, but she certainly has a slew of others to challenge her, including Glacier Peak’s Callie Bircher, Mountlake Terrace’s Rene Bos and Maddy Kristjanson and Shorecrest’s Amanda Hartley.

Reuble led Meadowdale had a 16-2 record with a 1.94 earned run average, 118 strikeouts and just 10 walks. She certainly has the support or her head coach Dennis Hopkins.

“I would put her in probably the top two or three pitchers in the state — at any level,” Hopkins said.

The Mavericks didn’t lose a single league game with Reuble pitching. What Reuble means to Meadowdale is similar to what the other girls mean to their respective teams.

Mountlake Terrace coach Shannon Rasmussen said Bos and Kristjanson have played a key role in the Hawks success this season. “They are leaders on and off the field for us,” Rasmussen said. “Definitely we wouldn’t be where we are now without the two of them. Even though we have been losing games having both of them pitching for us, they’ve been able to keep us in the games.”

Bircher’s statistics are very impressive for the Grizzlies. She has a 1.32 ERA with 152 strikeouts and just nine walks. Bircher helped lead the Grizzlies to the No. 3 seed from the Wesco South and her head coach Caitlin Nies said she has been one of the team’s most consistent players all season.

“She has been so consistent all season,” Nies said. “We make some mistakes behind her and she just keeps going. She has given us a great chance to win every game we have played in.”

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