Emilee Ramirez-Bardell, Rangers softball are catching fire
One of Estacada softball's senior leaders takes an old-school approach when it comes to game preparation.
Every night Emilee Ramirez-Bardell spends hours poring over game film. She analyzes each of her swings, watches out for any troubling trends from her teammates, and drills down to the minute details of her competition.
"As a catcher you see the whole field and need to know how every girl who steps up to the plate wants to swing," Ramirez-Bardell said. "I keep all of that in my head so I can help my teammates during games."
"It is just something I have always done," she added with a smile.
For a true master of her craft like Ramirez-Bardell, any detail can make the difference between a hit and an out. She watches how feet shift, and bodies adjust to various pitches. She hones in on when swings go high or low, or when something tricky is coming like a bunt. Similar to a poker great, she spends hours discovering all those little tells unknowingly broadcast by the other players in the league, and uses them to power the Rangers forward.
"You just don't see people watching film like that at this level anymore," said her coach Mike Clark with a wry grin. "That is the kind of stuff I used to do back in my playing days."
"She takes pressure off me coaching because she is correcting a lot of the issues she sees in film before I need to address them," he added.
Ramirez-Bardell's attention to detail is one of the reasons Estacada is surging during this spring season. Thanks to solid pitching and fielding, and a group of hitters who can come alive at any point during a game, the Rangers are making noise in the Tri-Valley Conference. As of Saturday, April 23, they sit atop the standings with a 11-4, 6-0 league record. The Rangers are No. 10 and have won nine in a row.
"This season has been something special," Clark said.
Ramirez-Bardell has been playing for most of her life. The 17-year-old Rangers senior began playing ball when she was 5 years old.
"I just love the atmosphere of being around all the other girls, connecting and making new friends," she said. "Especially with Estacada, it is good vibes all around."
"Anytime one of us is feeling down, or maybe makes an error in the field, we just hug the heck out of each other and pick each other back up," she added.
The reigning first-team all-leaguer is hitting .480 this season with 13 RBIs and only one error through 12 games.
"Emilee brings a lot of leadership to this team," Clark said. "It is a silent leadership — she pushes the team through her play and actions rather than her words."
The highlight for her so far has been a pair of victories over perennial powerhouse Gladstone — an achievement that has been fleeting for the Rangers in past years. First the Rangers won a 7-6 nail-biter at home, then hit the road for a 15-8 victory.
"We are the first Estacada softball team to beat them twice in a long time," she said.
In that most recent win, Clark credited Ramirez-Bardell for notching a trio of clutch hits.
"If you don't have a good catcher it is tough to win," Clark said. "Few balls go past her, and you can't steal home with her in position."
And those two will play once more — a Wednesday evening, May 4, showdown. If the Rangers secure another win, far from an easy task, it will mean breaking out some brooms that haven't been used in quite some time.
But while the wins are piling up, and the girls are enjoying the great season, no one in the program is getting ahead of themselves. They are taking it one game at a time, following the mindset of their leader at catcher.
Ramirez-Bardell isn't basking in glory, content to coast through the rest of 2022. Instead she is doubling down on everything that got her here in the first place. She continues to work hard in practice, listen to her coaches, uplift her teammates, and, of course, watch that film.
"It is all about how I can help my team," she said. "This is a mental game. And once you realize you can come back from any deficit, or any mistake, you learn there is always time to come back and win a game."
The Rangers have a simple goal for the season — win the Tri-Valley Conference. It is something the program has failed to do in recent memory, but everything is set to not only accomplish that goal by the end of the year, but also make some noise in the postseason.
"We want to change how people look at this program," Ramirez-Bardell said. "If we keep doing what we have been doing, it would be awesome to see more acknowledgement from the school and community. More people coming to games to cheer us on."
"Things are turning around for Estacada softball," Clark said. "We have a great team — one of the best I have ever coached."
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