By David Krueger Herald Writer
Ronnie Ladines had to sit on the bench for one state championship game.
So she made sure that when she got to play in a second title contest, her team would be victorious.
Ladines, who injured her finger before the 4A state basketball tournament in March, watched as her Eagles finished second at the Tacoma Dome. Almost three months later, she stepped into the pitcher’s circle and went a perfect 4-0 at the state softball tournament in Spokane. She struck out 55 of the 104 batters she faced while leading Arlington (23-3 overall) to a 2-1 win over Camas in the championship.
Her second half surge, both pitching and hitting (10 home runs in half a season), helped spark Arlington’s championship run and earned Ladines The Herald Softball Player of the Year.
“The whole season made me love softball again because I wanted to play so bad but couldn’t do anything about it,” Ladines said. “I knew that once I got back I was going to do everything I could to take the team as far as I could.”
Ladines, who also played soccer for Arlington, injured the index finger on her right, pitching hand in a basketball practice while swatting for the ball. She jammed her finger, fracturing it in several places.
The injury forced her to watch from the bench at the Tacoma Dome as the Eagles made it all the way to the state basketball championship, where they fell to Mead 58-42.
“Sitting through the state finals in basketball just about killed her as an athlete,” Arlington softball head coach Dan Eng said.
It also put her senior softball season in jeopardy. Ladines sat out until mid-April, and even when she returned she still had a fracture in her finger that she was told could end her season at any time.
“When she got out of the finger cast they took an X-ray and found another fracture,” Eng said. “The doctor gave her the option of putting up with the pain and going to back to work. Of course, being the competitor that she is, she took that option.”
Injured finger and all, Ladines proceeded to put on a show.
She went 12-1 in the regular season with an earned-run average of 0.17, facing 317 batters and striking out 154 of them. At the 4A state tournament, Ladines added four more victories and 55 more strikeouts against the best softball teams in Washington. She finished averaging 12.29 strikeouts per game.
“That’s just phenomenal,” Eng said. “You can imagine what she would have done if I had pitched her all season. ? It was total dominance. There’s no way around it. Not only that, her bat was a force.”
In just half a season, Ladines hit 10 home runs, seven doubles, two triples and finished with a batting average of .552. She ended the season with a 16-game hitting streak. The senior captain also finished the year with an amazing slugging percentage of 1.259.
Spending the first part of the 2013 season watching from the dugout as her team succeeded “was hard. It was really hard,” Ladines said. “I’ve been with this team for four years and I’ve always been able to contribute a little bit at least. Just sitting there watching was rough.”
She looked on as Hayley Fields went 10-2 pitching for the Eagles, batted with .522 and mounted a 19-game hitting streak to help Arlington get its season off to a strong start.
Ladines made her return against Lynnwood on April 15, striking out 14 batters while pitching a shutout in an 8-0 win over the Royals. She also batted 2-for-3 with a double, triple and three RBI.
“Basically everybody wrote us off the minute they found out (Ladines) was injured,” Eng said. “Hayley Fields did a great job in the first half. The team hit like we were supposed to, the team played defense like we were supposed to and having Ronnie back just enhanced it.”
The Eagles — and Ladines — continued their dominance in the postseason. Ladines pitched every postseason game for the Eagles, beginning with the second game at districts. She did not allow a single run in the playoffs until Camas scored in the third inning of the state championship.
Even Ladines isn’t completely sure how she did that.
“I honestly have no idea. … Seeing the teams that were there and how good we were doing, and I knew we could compete. That gave me confidence to throw even harder,” said Ladines, who will play college softball at Kent State University. She also was recruited by Seattle University, Western Washington University and the University of San Diego.
Arlington and Ladines weren’t challenged much at state until the championship game, where the Eagles found they needed to bring to bear all their talent. Proving Arlington isn’t a one-player show, center fielder Marisa Rathert made what was possibly a championship-saving play, catching a deep fly ball that took her tumbling over the outfield fence — and almost sent Ladines running to the outfield.
“I really think the turning point was Marisa Rathert’s catch,” said Ladines, who batted 3-for-3 in the championship game with two doubles and an RBI. “It was so good. It was so cool. I really think that’s the point where we were like, ‘We’ve got this. We can do this.’ ? I almost sprinted out and gave her a hug in center field. But I thought, ‘I’ve got to be calm. Play it cool.’”
Soon after, Ladines’ battery mate, catcher Lynsey Amundson, drove in a run on a ground out to second base. Ladines made sure it held up.
“That bottom of the seventh was the most intense half-inning I’ve ever played in,” Ladines said. “It was just silence. The entire crowd was just silent for every pitch and then that last pitch happened and it was just crazy.”
So, injured finger and all, Ladines still might be having the best year ever.
“Yeah, I think so. You could say that,” Ladines said with a laugh. “I just feel like I’ve been blessed to be on two teams that got to state championship games. Being able to witness the first game in basketball and then playing — and winning — the second one.”