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Dominating Dominguez powers Chargers
Kentridge pitcher Lizzet Dominguez comes off as a little shy, a teenager slowly transitioning to adulthood. But that shyness belies a fierce competitive nature.
The fourth-year varsity softball pitcher is a key element in the Chargers' (12-3, 14-3) success this season, helping lead them to a second-place league finish.
"So far I'm really proud of how we've done," she says "I don't think very many people expected much from us."
While making the state championship is a goal for the senior pitcher, she also wants another shot at Tahoma, the only team to have a winning record over Kentridge. Their first match ended with a 10-8 loss, and the second with a 2-1 loss.
"Going into the playoffs I really want another chance to play them. I want to beat them so bad," she says. "That's one thing that I really want."
It's Dominguez's last season with the Chargers, and she's planning to go out with a bang.
Dominguez has played fastpitch for seven years, but says she wasn't interested in the sport when she first tried it in fourth grade.
"We were going through that phase where we tried every sport. I played softball and honestly the first time I hated it."
It wasn't till she tried pitching that she discovered she really like playing.
"Fourth grade is when I fell in love with pitching, and seventh grade is when I realized I could do something with it."
The 18-year-old senior now serves as the team's captain as well and first string pitcher. While sophomore Jessica Cruz backs her up, many of Kentridge's wins have hinged on Dominguez's ability to lead a tough-as-nails defense and lock down the infield. Dominguez has led the season with a 2.26 ERA and maintained a lead of 14-3 overall, with losses only to Tahoma and Kentridge.
While some of her skills have been developed over seven years of pitching, she also has worked hard in her off season at home and on the Washington Ladyhawks fastpitch team.
Having four pitchers on the Ladyhawks forced Dominguez to step up her game to maintain her position and stand out on the team.
Her father helped her practice during her off season, going so far as to rig up a net and makeshift pitching box in their backyard
"I worked at home in the backyard with my dad every chance we could."
The work paid off, with her and Camas' Carly Hubbard taking over primary pitching duties on the Ladyhawks.
Today, she likes hearing opposing teams advising their players to "watch the change up," she says, "because they know that's my specialty."
This year, Dominguez is looking to pass on some of the things she's learned from her years to her younger teammates as one of the teams two captains.
Returning for her second season as a captain, she says her her priorities have shifted. While last year she focused on proving herself to her teammates, this year she's taken on more of a mentorship role.
"I haven't really changed anything except trying to be more helpful. We have a lot of young girls and underclassmen, so I try to be open with them so that they know that i'm there."
But she's also had to balance being helpful and available to her teammates with being a strong leader that players will want to follow. She says she's been trying to avoid becoming a strict or overbearing leader but simultaneously establish her presence on the team.
"I have to make sure they know that I am the pitcher, that I am the leader. I don't want to Pitching with the Chargers provides a healthy amount of pressure for Dominguez, and one of the favorite moments in her career came from the pressure on the mound.
While playing Tahoma, the Chargers came up against a full count with loaded bases. It was a hit and a walk and another hit. Three balls and two strikes maxed the count, and the pressure was on to prevent the Bears from finding two or potentially three more runs. Dominguez struck the batter out.
"I really like how it depends on you," she says. "Even in the bad games, like, you have to take that accountability, you can't brush it off on anyone else. It's you."
While Dominguez says her goals each year have been a state championship match, she feels more confident this year than any other. "This year I really feel like we can actually make it happen," she says.
Going into next week, the team will be looking at shaping up their batting strategy, since it'll take more than just solid defense to win their upcoming games. Kentridge carries an ERA of only 2.2 and has a high fielding percentage, but find themselves weighed down by a low ABP of 3.6.
"When our bats are on there's no stopping us," she says, "but when we're not on we have a pretty good defense that will hold the other team."
"I wouldn't say it's bad when it's off, we have hits but not consecutive hits," says Dominguez. "We have key hits and score one run or two runs. Against Tahoma we strung a few in but we didn't keep it going, when we played Kentwood this last game we were consistent."
After her 18th birthday, she now sports a tattoo with the phrase "With Pain Comes Strength" on her pitching arm. They're personal watch words for her.
"With all the hard times," she says, "you'll definitely find the good ones with hard practices and working."