Blaine senior softball ace Ashley Bolick's career passion was tested this season while playing the game she's most passionate about.
The Boderites were trailing Burlington-Edison 3-0 during the third inning of Blaine's third game of the season when right fielder Jolee Russell and shortstop Lexi McElwain found themselves on a collision course trying to field a shallow pop fly.
Smack! McElwain and Russell fell to the ground. Bolick ran from the pitching circle and instantly went to work.
"I immediately ran over to our right fielder, because she was closest, and she was bleeding," Bolick said in a phone interview. "(Coach) Alisa (Burk) ran to our shortstop. I immediately put pressure on (Russell's) head, got everyone out of the way and had people come out with a med kit. We had someone call an ambulance. I got a lot of credit, but at the time I didn't think it was a big deal."
Burk described Bolick's actions as "instinctive." It's not the first time the Borderites senior has provided medical care for an in-game injury.
Burk, who is a head medical trainer at Blaine, and Bolick have spent nearly as many hours in the training room together caring for athletes as they have on the softball field.
"So last year I decided to be the girls' basketball trainer for a community events project at school," Bolick said. "I really liked it, and Alisa asked me if I wanted to be a football trainer. I know how to tape ankles, wrists and know how to (diagnose) concussions. I'm going to college to be a physical therapist."
Bolick discovered helping athletes prevent, deal with and overcome injuries is a love of hers, almost as much as softball is. Interestingly enough, it was an odd injury she sustained as a sophomore that nearly ended her high school playing career and also drove her to her passion for sports medicine.
Bolick has endured plenty of ups and downs during her four-year softball career.
She was one of five Borderites to play varsity softball as a freshman during the 2010 season. The Borderites went 15-11 that year and went 1-2 during the Class 2A State Tournament. Bolick put together a 2-4 record serving as Blaine's No. 2 pitcher.
The next season, Burk's first year as the varsity coach, was one to forget. Blaine won one game. The Borderites went from a title contender to a club in need of a facelift.
Unfortunately for Bolick, she's had to wait until this year to be a part of Blaine's turnaround.
The senior knows how to stay busy. Following her sophomore softball season, she played with a traveling club team that met two times a week in Marysville, had a team sports class at Blaine High School, practiced with members of the Borderites softball team during the offseason and went to weekend tournaments. All the time spent on her feet finally caught up with her.
"Around November (2011) I noticed a bump on my foot," Bolick said. "I didn't think anything of it, so I didn't tell anyone about it until the end of February."
Bolick finally went to the doctor after telling Burk and her parents about the lump on her right foot.
"I could barley walk," she said.
The doctor put Bolick's foot in a walking boot, but the pain refused to subside. She went back to the doctor to get an MRI, and Bolick got word she needed immediate surgery to remove a cyst that had developed in a tendon and started growing in her foot the Saturday before the 2012 softball season began.
"The doctor called and said I wouldn't be playing, and I had to have emergency surgery," she said. "Recovery time was a year or a year and a half, but I had surgery March 15 (2012) and was (healthy) at the end of June (2012)."
Bolick said the injury process and rehab furthered her desire to learn about physical therapy. It certainly made her hungry to make the most of her final season playing Blaine softball.
Even though Bolick was gone her junior year, it hardly felt like it.
"She's played softball her whole life," Burk said of Bolick. "As far as how difficult it was for her, it was extremely difficult. She did my statistics last year, so she sat next to me during the whole game, and we'd talk softball."
Bolick got the chance to see the game from a different perspective. She said it benefited her tremendously this season, and Bolick has been a key reason Blaine is in the hunt to finish first in the Northwest Conference standings amongst Class 1A teams only two years removed from a 1-19 season.
"It was tough for me," Bolick said, "but I went to every practice and game. Everything happens for a reason. I got to see the game on a whole different level."
The Borderites own an 11-4 record, and Bolick, who describes herself as a "smart pitcher," has put together an 8-4 record in 62 1/3 innings of work with 62 strikeouts and a 3.04 ERA. She's had to shoulder even more of the pitching load, since backup pitcher McElwain sustained her injury against Burlington-Edison and hasn't yet returned to the lineup.
Bolick doesn't overpower hitters with speed, but she does throw seven different pitches (fastball, change up, knuckle ball, rise ball, drop ball, screw ball and curveball) and has struck up a strong pitcher-catcher relationship with teammate Lexi Greguski.
"Lexi Greguski, all her time and effort, has made me who I am," Bolick said. "Having a catcher you can trust to make the right call is very important."
Burk has taken notice of Bolick's and Greguski's chemistry. She's let the duo call every game - something she didn't do during her first two years coaching the Borderites.
"Those two players happened to play on a travel team, so they have picked up on a lot of the players they play against (in high school)," Burk said. "Ashley didn't get to play last year, so she was at every game and practice studying, and she remembers a lot of the hitters from (2011)."
Bolick and Greguski know best how to attack the majority of the stronger hitters in the NWC, Burk said.
Bolick's work in the circle isn't the only way she's been contributing. She bats clean up and owns an eye-catching .589 batting average with 24 runs scored, 18 RBI, 12 doubles and a home run. Bolick went 4 for 4 with a homer, three doubles and six RBI during her last game against Squalicum on Friday, April 26.
Burk also raved about Bolick's tremendous leadership.
"She has kind of come out as a work horse this year," Burk said. "On the field, she has been phenomenal this year, and she's not only a leader on the field, she's a leader off the field, which is tremendous."
Bolick is hoping her final season ends the same way her first season did - with a state tournament berth.
She'll attend Lewis and Clark College, where she plans to continue both her career in softball and sports medicine next year.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.