Huntington North sophomore pitcher Erin Rethlake didn’t know what the rest of the season held for her after sliding into home in an April 16 game against Homestead and injuring her right knee.
She visited two doctors but came away a little confused.
The first doctor told me to just put my brace back on and go play, Rethlake said. That kind of gave me some hope. The second doctor told us that it was more serious than that. I was confused from all the doctors, and it didn’t hit me if I was actually going to play this season again.
The left-handed pitcher ended up having surgery on her meniscus, rehabbing the knee and missing 19 games. But her return has been one part motivational and one part heroic as the Vikings (23-7) have advanced to the school’s first state championship today.
I was more excited than anything, Rethlake said of returning from the injury. I can’t sit on the side and watch my team play. Just being back with them was more than I could have asked for. I didn’t envision (going to state) at all. That was the last thing I thought of.
Not only has Rethlake been stingy on the mound since her return about a month ago, allowing only one run in the postseason, but she has also provided two big home runs, including the only run in a 1-0 win over Northridge last Saturday in the semistate finals.
With her coming back from that injury, it puts our team up a whole another level, Huntington North coach Paris Seibold said.
During Rethlake’s first couple of games back, she wasn’t allowed to hit because of the injury. The Kentucky recruit is hitting .333 with 2 home runs in only 27 at-bats.
The first home run jump-started the Vikings to an 8-0 win over Carroll in the regionals. She also had a big home run in last year’s regional win against East Noble.
My hitting comes from frustration, she said. Each of the big hits has come after something has gone wrong. It is nice to be back, but it is all from the anger that builds up earlier in the game.
Rethlake (7-1) has a 0.24 ERA for the season but has picked things up even more in the postseason.
She has tossed five shutouts in the playoffs, including two 1-0 wins.
She can control a game, Seibold said. With her out there, usually (the opponents) are not going to score a lot of runs.
The Vikings, who face Plainfield (22-9) at 7:30 p.m. today in the Class 4A state title game, advanced to the semistate last year but lost in the semifinals to eventual state champion Carmel 8-0.
The biggest thing for us is we are not settling for anything this year, Rethlake said. Last year, we were just excited to be going to semistate. We have a different mentality on this year, and we wanted to keep going and push through all this and not leaving this season knowing you could have given more.