SPOKANE -- It was an exceptional pitching duel, but in the end, the state Class 4A softball championship game between Arlington and Camas came down to one spectacular, fence-crashing catch.
With the score tied at a run apiece, Camas sophomore Katie Schroeder stepped to the plate against Arlington's Ronnie Linares and jumped all over an 0-2 fastball, driving a shot to left center that, for all the world, was meant to sail over the fence to put the Papermakers in the lead.
But the Eagles' centerfielder, Marisa Rathert, would have none of it. She turned her back to the infield and raced toward the gleaming white temporary fence. Running at full speed she simultaneously slammed into the fence and snared the ball out of the air, tumbling into the outfield grass beyond the fence and popping up to hold her glove, with the ball nestled inside, to the crowd.
"She makes an out-of-this-world catch -- what can you do?" Camas coach Ken Nidick said. "That was a game changer."
Giving up just one run in the entire tournament, Arlington took the title game, 2-1, and claimed the 2013 state championship.
The Papermakers started Schroeder in the title game after Harli Hubbard out-dueled Woodinville's Madi Schreyer in a 2-0 semifinal win. But the sophomore got hit hard, surrendering doubles to lead-off hitter Hayley Fields and Linares that put the Eagles up 1-0 after just three hitters.
Nidick went to the pitcher's circle to talk with his power hurler, and when he turned back to the Camas dugout, Schroeder trotted to first and Hubbard took over pitching duties, fanning the first two batters she faced to end the inning.
Camas got its one run in the third inning. Portland State-bound shortstop Amee Aarhus led off the inning with a bunt single and stole second base. Lena Roberts followed with a triple to drive in the run, but while she stood on third, brushing off the dust from her slide into the bag, she was called out for not touching second base.
"What can I do?" Nidick asked, shaking his head. "The umpire swears he was standing five feet away and she never touched the bag and my runner swears she touched the bag."
With a runner at second base, Linares struck out Aarhus and Roberts to end the game.
Hubbard took the loss despite pitching a spectacular game in relief, striking out nine and allowing just two hits -- just hours after throwing a two-hitter at the defending state champions in the semifinal, striking out a dozen Falcons in a 2-0 Camas win.
"I felt a lot of pressure," she said. "I have a reputation of not coming through in big games, so coming through in this game means that much more to me because I can put that behind me. It means so much to me that my teammates are there backing me up, lifting me up and putting all of their confidence in me."