Citizen Staff Writer
ARIZONA WILDCATS SOFTBALL
Laine Roth couldn’t swing a bat. She couldn’t take a throw at first base. She’s not a pitcher.
On Senior Day – for a player who was a third-team All-American last season, for a player who has a torn tendon in her left wrist, for a player who has to come to grips that her college playing days are very possibly over – there really was only one thing she could do.
Coach Mike Candrea sent in Roth for one of the team’s fleetest players with two outs in the bottom of the fourth and the game out of reach.
The next batter made an out, and then the Wildcats closed out a five-inning 11-0 victory over Washington at Hillenbrand Stadium on Sunday.
Cue the on-field Senior Day festivities. Cue the tears.
For Roth, those started about two hours before the game at the stadium.
She heard UA officials running through the maudlin music they play after the game – such as the main theme to “Forrest Gump” – to accompany the text of each senior’s accomplishments.
“I carry my heart on my sleeve, always have,” she said.
For Roth, the emotions were stronger and more complicated because of that torn tendon.
A cortisone shot a couple of weeks ago didn’t help. She played Friday night against UCLA, but the pain was so great that she lost her grip on the bat in her final plate appearance, nearly clobbering on-deck hitter Lini Koria.
“That was it. That was the moment right there,” she said.
“I had hopes it would be fine. But why swing the bat if you can’t hold on to it and you’re going to kill your on-deck batter?
“I’m done,” she said.
Candrea holds out slim hope as the regular season heads into its final two weeks. He said they will try another shot to Roth’s wrist.
“If she has a few pinch-hits left in her, we can definitely use her there,” he said.
That doesn’t seem likely, and Roth hasn’t been able to do much this season, coming off her best year as a Wildcat. She hit .328 with 15 home runs and 42 RBIs last season.
Roth suffered the wrist injury in the second week of the season but tried to carry on without telling the coaches how badly she was hurt. Surgery would have ended her season. She is hitting .206 with four home runs.
“If she was a junior, then probably she would have come to grips with it sooner,” Candrea said.
One of her best friends, fellow senior Sam Banister, wrote Roth’s number – 24 – on her wrist for Sunday’s game. Banister, who has shared first base with Roth for much of the past three seasons, hit two home runs Sunday.
“I told her I claimed one of her homers,” Roth said with a laugh.
The Wildcats slugged five homers against a pair of Washington pitchers not named Danielle Lawrie, a sure-fire All-American who is 2-0 against Arizona this season, including a no-hitter.
Lawrie, the winner in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over UA, got the day off.
“If we are going to win 11-0 against their ‘B’ Team, I would rather do that than anything else,” Banister said.
Arizona improved to 37-11 overall and 9-4 in the Pac-10, a half game behind first-place UCLA.
Roth just wanted to play on Senior Day, even if pinch-running wasn’t the stuff of dreams.
But if that is her final appearance – she doesn’t have the speed to make pinch-running a regular occurrence – she will move on and do whatever she can for the team the rest of the way.
“I’m just pretty much going to be their cheerleader,” Roth said of her teammates.
“I’ll be pumping them up . . . just talking to them if they’re having a bad day. Just let them know they’re the best people. They wouldn’t be here if they’re not the best.
“They’re like my sisters. They’re here for me.”
Roth helped Arizona win national championships in 2006 and 2007. Even as a head cheerleader, she isn’t ready for the ride to end. The finality of it all hits the seniors right about now.
“Four years of hard work,” she said. “I can’t believe it happened so fast.”
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail:
UP NEXT: Arizona at Arizona State, doubleheader, 5 p.m. Wednesday
School Conf. Overall
UCLA 10-4 35-8
Arizona 9-4 37-11
Stanford 10-5 41-6
Washington 8-6 35-9
Arizona State 7-6 37-11
California 8-7 32-15
Oregon State 3-12 24-25
Oregon 2-13 15-29