Prep softball: How high will Arlington’s Eagles fly?

The Arlington softball team returns five seniors — three of them All-Wesco North first-teamers — from last year’s team that went 19-4.

Well, four and a half.

Ronnie Ladines, the Eagles’ No. 1 pitcher who decided at the last minute to play on the Arlington girls basketball team, broke her finger during practice right before this year’s Class 4A state tournament. Ladines still went to the Tacoma Dome and helped cheer for her team as the Eagles finished second at state.

“It was the weirdest thing,” Ladines, an All-Wesco North selection, said. “I was just defending somebody and I was just going to knock (the ball) out of bounds and it just caught my finger and it was sticking out crooked. It was really gross.”

The Kent State-bound Ladines gets the cast off March 14 and hopes to be back on the mound sometime in April. With three pins in her hand, she’s not entirely sure of the recovery time.

The senior still has no regrets about going out for the basketball team. Arlington girls head coach Joe Marsh was very persistent — and, ultimately, successful — in his efforts to get Ladines onto the court.

“I was just kind of done with basketball. I didn’t really want to do it anymore,” Ladines said. “But then he kept asking and asking, was like, ‘You need to come out there. Just have one more year of fun.’ I was like, ‘You know what? It’s my senior year. I played soccer. I’ll do basketball, too.’ It was probably one of the best decisions of my life.”

As a junior, Ladines had a 10-2 record with 146 strikeouts and a 1.55 earned-run average. She also batted .549 with 21 RBI and eight doubles.

With the injured Ladines starting the season on the disabled list, Arlington will look to four other seniors to help lead it through the early part of the season. All-Wesco North first-teamers Lynsey Amundson and Hayley Fields return, as well as Fields’ sister Hayden and third baseman Alyssa Campbell.

Together, the group is helping break in returning coach Dan Eng, who coached Arlington for four years, from 2007 to 2010. He retired after the 2010 season, which happened to be his current group of seniors’ freshman year.

“They lured me back,” Eng said. “Basically, I retired earlier because I thought I was out of energy. And then the bug just kept bugging me and when the opening came, I decided I’d do it again. I was fortunate that they gave me the opportunity to come back.”

Eng said his seniors have been stepping up since they were freshman, and he expects that trend to continue this season.

Amundson, a starting catcher, outfielder and backup pitcher, was a big source of offense for Arlington last season. She hit .690 with 13 doubles and knocked in 29 runs to help Arlington claim a Wesco North title.

Then there’s the Fields family. Hayley is an All-Wesco North first-team utility player who Eng says is incredibly versatile.

“She plays anywhere and everywhere that you need her,” Eng said. “She plays infield, outfield and was the No. 2 pitcher.”

Hayden Fields plays first base, outfield and is the backup catcher. Hayley and Hayden have a younger sister, Kendall, who is a freshman outfielder, and a triplet, Hanna, who Hayden says comes to every Eagles’ game and is “our No. 1 fan.”

Eng is also excited to see what Campbell, who was on junior varsity the last time Eng was coaching, can do.

“Between those seniors and Ronnie, they did carry that team most of the way the last couple years as far as I understood,” Eng said. “They carried the team as freshmen. They’re the two, three, four and five batters in the lineup. There’s a lot of home run power between them.”

The group has welcomed Eng back with open arms, and is eager to start fresh after last season.

“The new coaching is fun. He’s been keeping us busy all the time,” said Hayley Fields, who, along with her sister Hayden, will play at Simpson University in Redding, Calif. next year. “I’m that personality that has to always be busy, so he’s good at keeping us busy and teaching us new skills.”

“He’s really positive,” Campbell said. “He’s really motivational and helps out a lot.”

Arlington graduated three seniors from last year’s team, which finished the year 19-4. After a loss to Everett in its first game, the Eagles won 13 straight on their way to an 18-2 finish to the regular season.

Then Arlington went 1-2 in the district playoffs, falling to Cascade 3-1 in a loser-out district playoff game.

The seniors have different ways of looking back at last season.

“Last year, I think we had a lot of potential to go farther than we did,” Hayden Fields said. “This year it’s kind of a motivation to pick it up and really make our mark.”

“I try to forget last year,” said Amundson, a Western Washington University commit. “Just go out with the new season and just try our hardest and see what we can do.”

Eng is taking a you-can’t-live-in-the-past approach to the 2013 season.

“We haven’t discussed it because I don’t dwell on the past,” Eng said. “We always proceed to the future. Even though they were a very good team we expect them to be better this year.”

The players all agree that they want their senior year to have a different ending than last season.

“I really want to have fun this year, but also be successful at the same time,” Ladines said. “Last year we kind of faded off at the end I really want to keep it strong.”

“I’m really excited for this year,” said Campbell, who will play at Everett Community College after this year. “Most of the team has been playing together since we were a lot younger. I think we’re going to go a lot farther this year than we did last year. I know we can go a lot farther.”

“I’m just excited to start the season,” Amundson said. “Go Eagles.”

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