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Arlington fastpitch counting on experience
ARLINGTON — Will this be their year?
Though always talented, the Arlington fastpitch team has sometimes gotten lost in the shuffle of a conference with high-flying teams like Monroe, Everett and Stanwood and their top-notch pitchers.
But with the graduation of some of the league's best pitchers, including Monroe's Jordan Birch and Everett's Cory Mattson, Arlington coach Dan Eng is hoping it is his team's turn to shine.
With two Div. I-caliber athletes in their senior season and a total of seven players returning with varsity experience, Arlington is in good shape to have the breakthrough season that has eluded the team in recent seasons.
A three-time all-conference pick by Wesco coaches, pitcher Christina Rayner returns for her senior season and leads the Arlington bullpen. She has also committed to pitch for North Dakota State University in Fargo. Fellow senior Kristen Allen helps lead the infield, where she is a three-year starter at shortstop. Although she has yet to commit to college softball, Eng said Allen is considering a commitment to the Purdue Boilermakers, who went 9-9 in Big Ten play last year.
Two more seniors lead a team Eng said is shaping up to have a solid breath of athletes from each class. A third baseman last year, Lisa Allen will most likely be switching to catcher for the Eagles this season, filling a space left by a departing player. Elected by the team, senior Allie Milless is the team captain along with Rayner, and will share pitching and first baseman duties with her teammate.
"She's a great gal. I look forward to her leadership this year along with Christina," Eng said. "I expect them to help me out this year and make it to districts this year and go on to state."
Returning three more players with varsity experience, an X-factor for this Arlington team is the recent success of the Stilly Valley Little League program. Several players from the league's recent state championship teams are reaching high school age and could contend for a varsity slot this season or the next.
Eng is still getting to know those players, but he's impressed with what he's seen so far.
"It's really hard to say," he said. "There are a lot of Stilly Valley players that are trying out this year. They're a very interesting set of players and there are several who have the possibility of moving up right away."
The team begins their season with a home game against Sedro-Woolley March 17 and begins league competition with a home game against Stanwood March 26.