SPOKANE — The Lady Eagles took their first state fast-pitch softball championship on Saturday, May 25, allowing only one run for the four-game tournament held at the Merkel Sports Complex.
“It’s amazing, I’ve been dreaming about this forever, I never thought we would actually do it. I knew we could, but I didn’t know we would,” said pitcher and captain Ronnie Ladines. “On Thursday before the first game, we went out on the field and said, ‘Let’s take this in. We can handle this.’ We had the confidence that we should have had and everyone knew we could win.”
The Eagles began their championship journey by shutting out their first three opponents — South Kitsap, Todd Beamer and Richland. When it came time for the chance to win the state title, the team kept everything together for their final victory against Camas.
They scored a run in the first inning and Camas tied it in the third. Senior Lynsey Amundson hit a grounder in the fifth and Katelyn McDonald ran home to give Arlington the lead once again. It was in the fourth inning that the team knew they were in it to win.
“The best part of that game was when Marisa jumped the outfield fence and made a catch that robbed them of a home run,” said Ladines, who threw 291 strikes and 55 strikeouts, and give up only 15 hits during the four-game tournament.
Junior Marisa Rathert described a surreal feeling as she crashed through a fence to keep her team up.
“Honestly, when the ball was hit, I wasn’t thinking that much about what to do. I just knew I needed to catch it and I wasn’t going to stop. I put my hand out and I honestly don’t remember the fall.”
Arlington fans who were in attendance went wild at the catch, but Rathert was closer to the Camas crowd. “Well, behind the outfield fence was almost all Camas fans, so they weren’t happy about it,” she said. But Rathert and the rest of the Eagles weren’t there to please the Papermakers — they had a community of Eagles fans watching not only from the stands, but also from home as the game was webcast.
“When we won, it didn’t feel real,” said Amundson. “It felt like it was in a dream and everything we worked for was coming together. You could definitely feel energy throughout whole tournament.
“It had been a goal of ours since the beginning of the season — we talked about placing at state. It was always in the back of our minds that we could win it.”
“We were welcomed home by our community which is so nice, they were treating us like celebrities,” she said.
Ladines, who celebrated her birthday on Saturday, said she was proud to have such a supportive community and a wonderful group of fans.
“It’s amazing the support that we have gotten from all of the parents,” she said. “Every single one of our parents always fill the stands, even in Spokane. I just want to say thanks to all of the fans and coaches and players for this last season we had together.”
Coach Dan Eng never doubted the skill and perseverance of this season’s Eagles.
“At the beginning of the season you get a lot of questions asked and the main question was, ‘How high will the Eagles really fly?’ And they answered their own question,” he said.
“The girls, especially the seniors led by our captain Ronnie Ladines, reflected determination, goals and what they wanted to do. I was just fortunate to go along for the journey.”
The Eagles last captured a softball championship for slow-pitch in 1986, so it’s no wonder that the last moments of the 2013 tournament were tense for Arlington fans.
“We were ahead the whole game, and they tied it and we went ahead again,” Eng said. “The last three outs were just spectacular. The crowd was hanging on every moment, every pitch was silence. People had their coats up around their faces like they couldn’t open their eyes. And when the last pitch was released and the batter swung through it — it was euphoria.”
“I’m really happy for this team and for the Arlington community,” he said.