As the long introductions were rattled off Tuesday night at Tina Minke Field, Ryan senior Carol Raabe was waiting to wake up.
Surely the four-year starter wasn’t being introduced on her home field for the final time. It didn’t feel like it was that long ago when she pitching on varsity as a freshmen and helping the Lady Raiders make a deep playoff run. Surely Raabe had a couple years left to wear Ryan’s softball uniform.
But after the introductions wrapped up, Raabe realized she wasn’t dreaming. She was in the pitching circle at Tina Minke Field for the last time.
“This happened really fast,” Raabe said. “It was like in the blink of the eye. Four years definitely went by.”
Raabe, who has been with Ryan during some of the program’s best and worst times, will close out her high school career today when the Lady Raiders (8-17, 0-9) face Flower Mound on the road at 7 p.m. The Lady Jaguars are ranked third in Class 5A by the Texas Girls Coaches Association.
While tonight will be Raabe’s final game at Ryan, her softball career is slated to continue at San Jacinto College.
Raabe was a member of the Ryan team that reached the 2011 Class 4A regional semifinals and lost to Waco Midway. Three years later, Raabe will try to keep the Raiders from going winless in District 5-5A play.
Raabe is 5-13 on the mound but has a 3.97 ERA. Only 66 of the 137 runs Raabe has allowed have been earned.
And like it’s been for Ryan most of the season, things have not gone well, including Tuesday night’s game against Coppell.
Coppell opened the game with six straight hits off of Raabe and led 5-0. The Lady Raiders rallied and took a seven-run lead into the sixth inning, but they couldn’t pick up their first district win and lost 15-13 in Raabe’s final home game.
At the plate, she went 4-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs. Ryan head coach Aimee Foutch said Raabe’s production at the plate has been something the team has come to expect. She’s batting .338 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs.
“I think it’s something she’s always done,” Foutch said. “It’s something we’ve all come to trust and expect when she comes up to the plate. That’s the options that we get. She’s going to deliver.”
Over the last four years, Raabe has had to adjust her mentality through Ryan’s past success and recent struggles.
When she was a freshman, Raabe didn’t expect to see time as a starting pitcher. But she worked her way into the rotation, helped Ryan make its deep playoff run and was named District 4-4A’s Newcomer of the Year.
“Being a freshman, she was new at this and she was surrounded by some very talented athletes,” Foutch said. “So, she had an opportunity to see what leadership was all about that. She’s had the opportunity to be a leader herself.”
Senior catcher Megan Durante, one of Raabe’s best friends, has the luxury of calling some of Raabe’s favorite pitches, the drop curveball and the changeup.
If things aren’t going well, Durante trots forward to her pitcher and delivers an inside joke to cheer her up. Durante, who will play at North Central Texas College next fall, said Raabe has done a good job of dealing with this year’s adversity.
“She’s really positive about it,” Durante said. “She knows with the young group that we have, we can look to each other, and we have to do what we need to do as seniors and let everything else fall into place.”
Raabe is proud of the way her team has grown throughout the year. She said if the team that struggled to play catch in the first practice of the season came out to face Coppell on Tuesday, the game wouldn’t have made it past the 10-run mercy rule in the fifth inning.
But the Lady Raiders fought back and almost pulled out a win. With one game left in the season, Raabe is close to closing her career with Foutch and her teammates and crossing off a few personal goals before she leaves Ryan’s pitching circle one more time.
“I wanted to leave it all on the field,” Raabe said. “I wanted to have fun. I want to enjoy my last year as a senior. I wanted to be there for my team and be a leader and show them how a leader can be and how to lead.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.