It’s a busy week, so let me get right to it.
In this’ week’s Triple Play, you’ll get some insight into Emerald Ridge’s unbeaten ride, read how Ronnie Ladines is making her return loud and clear at Arlington, and find out about some unselfish seniors at Marysville-Pilchuck.
I’ve got the latest national rankings for you, too, and some links to various post-season tournaments.
ER Jags aren’t beating themselves, and neither is anyone else
The initial goal was simple for this year’s Emerald Ridge team.
“We talked about playing up to our potential and not beating ourselves,” first-year coach Derick Nelons said.
Well, so far so good. The Jaguars are not beating themselves, and neither is anyone else. They are 19-0 heading into the SPSL 4A tournament, where they are seeded into the semifinals as South Division champions.
And they have bigger goals yet in mind.
“We talked about our ultimate goal, and our ultimate goal is to win state,” Nelons said. “They’ve been to state before and come up short.”
The Jags, in fact, have reached the 4A state tourney five out of the past six years, missing only in 2008. On each occasion, they lost their first game and never finished better than 2-2. They were just 1-2 in Spokane last May.
This year, they think things can turn out differently. They have a top-notch pitcher in Meagan Hendrix, a lefty who has signed with Portland State. She is 15-0 with a 0.72 ERA and a whopping 207 strikeouts in 107 innings
“Meagan is probably one of the best pitchers in the state of Washington,” said Nelons, who coached her in club ball since she was 12. “Her maturity and her presence on the mound is really unmatched. She’s got an exceptionally good command of all of her pitches and she’s also an amazing hitter as well.”
She is batting .476 with a team-high 26 RBI. Her .649 on-base percentage also leads the team.
“She is just a complete player,” said Nelons, who was an assistant at Steilacoom High School the past four seasons and took over at Emerald Ridge when Lynn Wardle retired. “She’s a great leader and she sets the tone for our team.”
Hendrix has help, too.
Junior Centerfielder Chelsey Hayes has had the hottest bat with a .520 average and leads ER with 30 runs scored. She has driving in 20 runs. She also pitches on occastion and is 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA.
A pair of freshmen have contributed significantly as well. Ayanna Arceneaux, who plays at either shortstop or in left field, carries a .431 average with 16 RBI and 15 runs scored. Skylaar Merrill (outfield or second base) is a .353 hitter with 21 runs scored.
Junior Valerie Arams (outfield or second) is hitting .394. The team’s batting average is a staggering .498.
While Hendrix has the high strike-out rate, she can count on her defense when needed.
“Our defense has been outstanding,” Nelons said. “We’ve had very minimal errors throughout the year. We had one stretch where we didn’t commit an error for our first 14 games.”
That’s a good way not to beat yourself. And a good reason to have a shot at a state title.
Arlington has it all with Ronnie Ladines back in the lineup
How much of a difference does Ronnie Ladines make for Arlington?
Consider her performance in Wednesday’s 8-0 victory over Snohomish. In just her seventh game back after recovering from surgery to repair a broken finger on her pitching hand, she struck out 17 while tossing a four-hit shutout. She was a terror at the plate, too, clubbing two home runs and a double to drive in three runs.
“She’s a force,” coach Dan Eng said. “You can tell she just solidifies this team with the way she pitches and hits.”
Ladines is now 6-1 with a miniscule ERA of 0.16. Her batting average jumped to .529 with her 3-for-4 effort yesterday and her slugging percentage skyrocketed to 1.147. In seven games, she has driving in 20 runs.
So, in case there was any questions, consider the senior ace back to full strength, to say the least. But it took her a few games to get there, Eng said, noting she would start to lose her stamina in about the fourth inning when she first returned.
“She started to get stronger and stronger, and that showed against Lake Stevens,” Eng said.
Ah, yes, Lake Stevens. What a game that was. The Eagles trialed 1-0 with two out in the bottom of the seventh. There was no one on base and two strikes on the batter. But Katelynn McDonald managed to work a walk and Arlington rallied for a 4-1 victory.
“That’s the cardiac kids syndrome,” Eng said as his team improved to 16-3 on the season and finished second in the WesCo North at 11-3, one game behind Snohomish.
Ladines, who has signed with Kent State and broke her finger late in the basketball season, had a key hit in that inning and got the win by allowing just four hits and fanning 11.
Arlington is a different team with her in the lineup, obviously. Not that the Eagles were struggling that much without her. They were 10-2, thanks in large part to the pitching and hitting of senior Hayley Fields. But there’s an added sense of confidence with Ladines back on the field.
“I could really tell the first game she came back how much this team really missed her,” Eng said. “With Ronnie back, it’s like we have that last missing piece of the puzzle.”
Eng, who coached these seniors as freshmen, then took a two-year break, also has high praise for Fields, who has signed with Northern Idaho Community College with sister Hayden (these are the two of the Fields triplets who play softball).
Hayley was 10-2 as a pitcher with a 2.33 ERA. She is now playing at either second base or in right field and has had at least one hit in all 19 games this season.
“Hayley has been fantastic,” Eng said. “You give her two or three at-bats, and she will get a hit, and not just a soft one. It’s a line drive bullet to the fence.”
Batting leadoff, she is hitting .500 with 15 RBI.
Junior center fielder Marisa Rathert has also been key, batting .448 with 15 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 16 tries.
The Eagles came into the season with high goals, even knowing they would be without Ladines for part of it.
“They had some unfinished business from last year,” Eng said, recalling how the team went 15-1 in league play, then dropped two out of three at district. “The kids want to play up their potential at the end. They came into the season really driven.”
And now they’ve got Ladines at the wheel. They start Northwest District play Tuesday against Kamiak.
Haley Fritz put Marysville-Pilchuck’s needs above her own
Aaron Zachry hated to ask. But it was the best solution for Marysville-Pilchuck, so he went to senior shortstop Haley Fritz before the season to talk to her about making a big sacrifice.
“Can you pitch for us this season?” he asked.
“I’d really rather not, but if that’s what we need, I’ll do it,” Fritz replied.
She was really regretting that offer when the Tomahawks opened the season in the rain against Lake Stevens. She walked 15 and hit one batter in a 17-10 loss.
“She was really frustrated,” Zachry said. “This kid is a competitor….But she’s a captain and she did what a captain would do.”
What Fritz has done since that time has been pretty remarkable, especially considering she had given up pitching when she was in eighth grade. Take out that Lake Stevens game, and Fritz is 9-3 with a 2.71 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 83 innings.
“She’s really stepped up,” said Zachry, in just his second season as head coach.
Not only in the circle, but at the plate, where she is batting .609 with 10 doubles, there triples and two home runs – a 1.016 slugging percentage. And she has gotten a little time at short, when freshman Jordan Willard picks up some pitching experience, and has committed just two errors.
Fritz isn’t the only senior the coach asked to sacrifice, either. He moved his daughter, Casey, from the outfield to catcher.
“I felt bad for the girls, because it’s their senior year and I want them to enjoy it,” the coach said. “But it’s all been taken in stride and handled really well.”
Casey has a .444 on-base percentage while hitting .365. The only other senior on the team is Jordyn Nickolson, who was able to stay at second base this season. She is hitting .544 with 11 doubles, three triples and a home run.
The three seniors have keyed M-P’s run to the WesCo 3A North Division title as they finished 9-4, 12-8 overall. All of their nonleague games were against teams in the tough WesCo 4A North.
Coach Zachry wasn’t sure what to expect this season. Sure, the Tomahawks dropped from 4A to 3A, and had all but two players back from the 2012 state team. But those two were key – pitcher Monica Clow and catcher Jessica Chrsitensen.
“I knew we were going to be able to compete,” he said. “I figured the South Division would be a little stronger than the North, and it’s kind of worked out that way.”
But M-P has held its own against most of the South opponents.
“Meadowdale is the only team that really handled us from the South,” Zachry said of the 17-2 Mavericks, who went 13-0 to win the division. “We split with Terrace and lost to Glacier Peak in nine. Against Shorecrest, we lost after we were up by one with two out in the seventh.”
So, he admits the Tomahawks have a bit of a chip on their shoulders as they head into next week’s Northwest 3A District tournament, where they will play Mountlake Terrace on Tuesday.
“We’ve got a little bit to prove,” he said. “We let some games slip away. We are preaching finishing games.”
They are also focused on finishing the careers of their three seasons in a fitting fashion. The trio lettered as freshmen and has been to state the past three years.
“We want to get back to state for these guys,” Zachry said. “They’ve never not been to state. They’ve been the last three years and we want them to get there again, and they’ve got a good shot. It’s definitely in the cards.”
The latest national rankings
Woodinville has taken another step up in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings and not sits at No. 15. Find the complete list here.
And in the NFCA poll, the Falcons are holding at No. 8, which you can see here.
Links to post-season tournaments
As you probably know, some leagues and districts are better than others about posting tournament brackets and bracket updates.
I’ve gotten what I can for you.
The Metro tournament started earlier this week, so let me start there. The bracket here is missing one quarterfinal game, and Holy Names won that one over West Seattle, 18-0, so you’ll have to update that yourself.
The SPSL 4A tournament starts today, and you’ll find that bracket here.
The SPSL 3A/Seamount sub-distrct tourney also starts today, and you can check out the bracket here.
The SPSL 2A/Seamount sub-district is tomorrow, and that bracket is here.
They’ve done better with the KingCo 3A bracket here. That tourney is today and tomorrow.
You can find the KingCo 4A bracket here. First-round games are Monday. I haven’t found one posted with the actual pairings. But, from top to bottom they are: GM 1: Skyline v. Inglemoor, GM 2: Bothell v. Newport, GM 3: Redmond v. Ballard and GM 4 Issaquah v. Woodinville.
The District 1/2 2A tournament, which includes Lake Washington, starts Wednesday. Check it out here.
If there are other tournaments you are interested in, I suggest checking out this website.