Even the back-up pitchers could be aces at most other schools.
Senior Danica Arterburn is the latest to carry on the tradition and filling right in for the 25-2 Cougars.
Although she is not as dominant as Mallary Darby and Karlyn Jones were, Arterburn brings something immeasurable that also made the two former Spanish Springs aces invaluable.
“The one thing that is similar between Mallary, Karlyn and Danica is their competitiveness. All three are competitors. They’re all cut out of that same mold,” SSHS softball coach Jeff Davidson said. “They’re out there to compete and they have that desire to win. That’s the one thing they all have in common.”
Without an overpowering pitch, Arterburn has to use all her pitches and hit her locations to be most effective and keep hitters off-balance. Looking at her numbers, she’s doing a good job.
Arterburn has racked up a 21-2 record, going the distance 15 times with seven shutouts. Through 122 innings in the circle, she has struck out 163 opponents while walking only 26. Arterburn has allowed 18 earned runs for a 1.03 earned-run average.
Arterburn is one of the team captains along with Sydney Darby. With a young team this year of only four seniors and just as many freshmen, Arterburn’s leadership is highly valuable.
“She’s tremendous. Ever since Danica has been in the program, her work ethic is tremendous. She’s a leader on the field and off,” Davidson said.
Spanish Springs graduated a large senior core from last year’s state championship squad. But that’s part of the thing Arterburn is enjoying about this season.
“This season has definitely been different since we have a younger team, so it’s been a lot of teaching and getting the younger girls up to speed. It’s been a lot of fun teaching them and showing them what a championship team is like,” Arterburn said. “I feel like we’ve been overlooked. Every win proves that these girls are just as good as any of the girls from previous years. As seniors, of course we want to win, but it’s also for them (the underclassmen) so they can follow in the footsteps of everyone else.”
Arterburn started playing softball around the age of 5. She didn’t naturally gravitate toward pitching because in t-ball, the pitcher doesn’t do much. She wanted to be involved more in the action.
Gradually, she realized how much pressure was involved in pitching, and the adrenaline she got during the games is what motivated her to work harder.
Now, it’s tough to get Arterburn to give up the ball even when Davidson didn’t originally plan her to pitch both ends of a doubleheader. She recently pitched two complete games in Spanish Springs’ sweep of cross-town rival Reed.
“I just always want the ball because I want to help my team out any way I can,” Arterburn said. “When I’m playing in the outfield, I want to do everything I can to back up my pitchers, so I was hoping they would do the same for me when they are in the field.”
She also helps the team at the plate.
Arterburn is one of those pitchers that has the phrase “helped her cause” attached to her name frequently as one of the league’s top hitters.
Arterburn is one of two Cougars hitting over .500 this season, leading the team with a .530 batting average. Her team-high .819 slugging percentage is due to leading the team with seven doubles, four triples and being tied for tops in home runs with three.
She is also second on the team in on-base percentage (.567), runs (25), hits (44), RBIs (24) and stolen bases (5).
“Danica has always been one of the best outfielders in the league as well as being a pitcher,” Davidson said. “She’s my No. 3 hitter this year. I know she’s hitting over .500 this year and driving in runs. She’s always been a very good hitter and has very good speed when she gets on the bases.”
The Cougars have not lost to a northern Nevada foe this spring, so they are the odds on favorite to represent the North at the state tournament. But that won’t be good enough for Arterburn. She wants to end her high school career with back-to-back state championships.
“It’s our last chance to go to Vegas, so I want this really bad. I think that trip will be really fun. It’s always a great feeling when you win,” she said.