A couple throws was all Lynden softball coach Steve Petersen needed to see, and sophomore Mandy Warner was the Lions' catcher of the future.
"Like you can tell with a lay-in drill," Petersen said in a phone interview. "It was easy to see just with how hard she threw the ball."
Warner has started behind the plate since she was a freshman, and while she's soft spoken, her game and competitive edge speak the highest volumes.
Hit, throw, defend, and run: She can do it all on the diamond.
"She is pretty close to being a five tool high school player," Petersen said in a phone interview. "She can hit for average, power, can catch, throw and has speed."
Warner's repertoire benefits Lynden in numerous many ways.
Besides catching for Lions standout pitcher Brooke Bonsen, Warner bats leadoff. Rarely does a catcher find oneself atop the lineup card, but Warner's batting average, on-base percentage and ability on the base paths force Petersen to get as many at-bats as possible.
Warner already ranks among the top runs-scored leaders in Lynden softball history and is close to setting a new mark with a state tournament still to play after only two years, Petersen said.
"From first to third, to second to home, she gets going," Petersen said.
When asked how she navigates the base paths so well, Warner provided a simple response: "I just try to get to the next base."
Warner will try to add more runs and help the Lions rebound from a disappointing 2012 state tournament when Lynden opens the Class 2A State Tournament against Sumner at 10 a.m. Friday, May 24, at Carlon Park in Selah.
Lynden went two-and-out last year, but the Lions are rolling this season heading into the postseason after winning their first district title since 1993, beating Granite Falls last week. Lynden (19-4) also won the Northwest Conference title.
"It was hard, but I know this year we can do a lot better," Warner said in a phone interview. "We definitely have another year of experience, and we need to come out and play every team hard."
While it's easy to peg Bonsen's success in the circle as the reason for Lynden's, team defense has been just as important. That starts with Warner behind the plate.
Despite being an underclassman, the two-year starter said catching Bonsen has been a relatively easy task.
"She makes it easy, because she throws to her spots," she said. "We both really trust each other, and we have a really good connection."
Petersen calls most pitches, but he said Warner and Bonsen have the freedom to sometimes make their own calls.
It boils down to the mutual respect and trust they have for each other. Warner and Bonsen don't "cross each other off" when calling a pitch, Petersen said.
While Warner's batting average rests in the low .400s and her on-base percentage is equally impressive, her competitive nature is tremendous.
"She is a tough kid, and she has those intangibles," Petersen said. "She is not happy unless she is successful and the team is being successful. She brings that to every practice, every game and really, as a catcher, she brings it every pitch."
Warner looked no further than her Lions teammates when explaining where she gets her competitive drive from.
"Just feeding off the team," she said. "We are all super competitive."
Lynden will look to turn its will to win into a strong state tournament this weekend.
"I think we are a lot more confident, and we are playing our best at the end of the year," Petersen said. "We weren't playing our best ball at the end of last year. The last couple of weeks have been really solid softball."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
SOFTBALL STATE TOURNAMENTS
CLASS 2A STATE TOURNAMENT
Friday, May 24, at Carlon Park in Selah
First round: Lynden vs. Sumner, 10 a.m.
Second round: Lynden vs. Ellensburg or Aberdeen, TBD
CLASS 1A STATE TOURNAMENT
Friday, May 24, at Columbia Playfield in Richland
First round: Nooksack Valley vs. Elma, noon
Second round: Nooksack Valley vs. Lakeside or Warden, TBD
First round: Mount Baker vs. Woodland, noon
Second round: Mount Baker vs. Riverview or Okanogan
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.