Infielder Cassidy Fifield was one of the biggest reasons Lake Stevens High School was in a position to compete for a district softball championship and advance to the state tournament this past spring.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, when they got that far, Fifield was forced to watch from the sidelines.
She suffered a strained Achilles tendon in the Vikings’ final regular-season game — a 10-8 loss to Monroe on May 15 — that kept her out of the district and state tournaments. Wearing her uniform and a walking boot, Fifield could only look on as the Vikings earned a spot in the 4A District 1 championship game and a berth in the state tournament.
Fifield tried to practice following her injury, but the pain persisted. When she informed Lake Stevens head coach Sarah Hirsch that the pain wasn’t going away and that she needed to see a doctor, Fifield remembers Hirsch saying, “OK, just don’t let them put you in a boot.”
But after examination, a boot was what the doctor ordered. The news didn’t sit well with Fifield.
“It was not full-on crying, but it was close,” said Fifield, who will be a senior this year. “It was really disappointing because it was really fun (last season) with the school team. We had a really good time. Missing the best part, it was hard.”
Had Fifield continued to play, she would have been at an elevated risk of tearing her Achilles tendon, which can take more than a year to recover from.
Watching from the dugout as the district tournament began, Fifield embraced her role as an observer and source of encouragement for her teammates.
“At that point, I had kind of already accepted it,” she said. “It was like, ‘I’m done. I’ve got to help my team out now.’”
Fifield’s absence forced freshman Payton Beaver to fill in at shortstop — a position Beaver had never played before.
It didn’t show.
Beaver was flawless in the field and even better at the plate. She finished 3-for-4 and was a double short of the cycle.
In the dugout, Fifield was her biggest fan.
“She played really well,” Fifield said. “She did a really great job at shortstop. I was so excited. It was so awesome to see her do well.
“That was the way to be out, but not be out there, I guess,” Fifield added.
Beaver’s added offense was just what the Vikings needed. Hirsch said she knew her team had enough depth that it would be fine defensively, but not having Fifield and her .400-plus batting average was a concern.
“She’s such a spark,” Hirsch said of Fifield. “If she gets on (base), usually it’s going to be a run. When she didn’t get on (base), we would struggle. So I was concerned about not having her in that leadoff role to start the game off.”
The Vikings went 2-0 on Day 1 of the tournament, shutting out Edmonds-Woodway 14-0 and Arlington 10-0. The victory over the Eagles earned Lake Stevens a berth in the state tournament and set up a meeting with rival Snohomish in the district championship game, which the Vikings lost 9-5.
Fifield said not being able to play with her team in Spokane at state was just as difficult as sitting out the district tournament. The Vikings had made it to the state the year before when Fifield was a sophomore, so she knew exactly what she was missing: “a really fun experience,”
Fifield brought her uniform just in case she was able to play, but her injury wouldn’t allow it.
“It was just so hard for me to walk and stuff with it taped,” she said. “It would have stupid for me to play. I was going to try to hit, but I couldn’t run, so that’s kind of useless.”
The Vikings lost their state tournament opener 5-4 to Walla Walla, which went on to place second, and were eliminated in their second game by Redmond.
With the school season over, Fifield turned her attention to getting healthy and on the field with her select team, the Northwest Sidewinders.
She returned in late June, but it was short-lived. A broken thumb in her second tournament back has kept her out of game action since.
Her thumb has healed enough recently to allow her to return to the softball field for workouts.
Missing the Vikings’ playoff run this past season has Fifield hungrier than ever for a return trip to the state tournament, and the 2015 season will be her final opportunity to compete at that level before she graduates next June.
“I think for her, it’s going to be a huge motivation to make sure that she gets another chance to make a run at a state title,” Hirsch said.
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at email@example.com.