By Tom Mauldin 11/30/2020
Haley Rainey’s best and worst moments in softball happened one year apart, against the same team and both in state championship games. They had far different outcomes, yet set the stage for what was her best diamond experience to date.
“Signing with Idaho State was the best feeling,” said Rainey, a senior at Adna (WA). “I knew it was the place for me the first time I set foot on campus. It just felt like family. I felt happy there.”
Reaching that pinnacle, however, has been part of a feel-good story about a small-town girl reaching for dreams and succeeding. It’s been a journey filled with self-doubt, an enduring work ethic and a passion for softball. And a multitude of on and off-the field successes.
Her best moment was when Rainey pitched a complete game, 9-7, victory over PeElle-Willapa Valley to win the Washington 2B state championship in 2019.
That was a Memorial Day weekend she will never forget.
“It was amazing,” said Rainey. “It was great … it is different than club ball because we won it for our community. We sang our school fight song after the tournament. That will be with me forever.”
Rainey felt especially proud of winning the title for her “super small cool community.”
“Everyone follows what the school does,” she said, noting that the football stadium is the place to be on Friday nights. “It’s a very small, but wonderful community.”
Adna has one store, one coffee stand and a couple of gas stations. Due to its rural setting with little settlement concentration, it did not meet qualifications as a census-designated place, a program used by the U.S. Census Bureau for unincorporated communities in Lewis County.
Adna’s post office shares space with the town store. It has two schools, an elementary and the seventh-through-12th grade high school.
Most people know Adna as a rural area on Highway 6 about 10 miles west of Chehalis.
Led by Rainey, the softball team is putting Adna on the map. The 2019 state title game was Adna’s 2019 highlight.
Not only did Rainey pitch the title game, she collected two singles, a double and drove in a pair of runs.
In leading Adna in 2019, Rainey batted .566, drove in 47 runs and collected 32 extra base hits as Adna lost just twice in 31 games. She averaged 1.65 strikeouts per inning and in the postseason, struck out 54 in 31 innings, homered three times and drove in a dozen runs.
Her “most forgettable game” was a year to the day earlier, again against rival PeElle-Willapa Valley, but this time it was the 2018 state 2B finale.
“It was hard because it was a game when everyone gave up,” said Rainey about the 13-4 loss. ”It was a feeling I don’t want to feel ever again. Losing and hanging our heads is what I want to forget about.”
However, she admits it was also the game she learned the most from. And from that moment on, Rainey has elevated her game. Her focus, her work ethic, her game-day demeanor grew with intensity and determination.
Each was a defining moment
There was a maturation during the 12 months separating the cold reality of defeat to the euphoria of a state championship.
People noticed. College coaches put Rainey on their radar.
Part of that growth was gaining confidence and being consistent.
“Being level headed is probably the strongest part of my game,” said Rainey, the daughter of Christina and Matthew Rainey. “Whenever there are issues…umpires or other team. I can focus on playing my game. I don’t get distracted. It doesn’t interfere with my pitching.”
The dividends that followed were many – Rainey was 2B State 2019 Player of the Year, the Central 2B League MVP and The Lewis County Chronicle’s All-Area MVP.
According to MaxPreps, she is 25-4 over two seasons with a 1.62 ERA ad 252 strikeouts in 154 innings. She averaged 1.65 strikeouts per inning as a sophomore.
In 57 games, she has accounted for 161 runs for Adna and 54 extra base hits. And she has struck out only six times in 210 plate appearances.
Though the 2020 prep season was cancelled and summer travel play was limited, Rainey found time to shine at Fastpitch Northwest’s College Exposure tournament held this year in Keizer, OR, in August. Her Washington team captured the Upper Division title and she was named to the All-Tournament team.
“I had a great time at the tournament. It was also a great opportunity to get to play actual games against competitive opponents during a summer where competitive games were limited,” said Rainey. “I’ve made so many great friends (at FPNW) through the years.”
Rainey carries a 3.99 grade point average and plans to teach and coach. Her goal at ISU is to be the best pitcher in the Big Sky Conference.
The positives are many for the 5-10 right-hander. But that level of confidence once eluded Rainey.
“I was really a small kid and have always had to work hard on getting consistent within my frame,” Rainey said. “I lacked confidence. For a long time didn’t feel I could reach my personal goal of playing at the level I wanted to.”
She credits pitching coach Larry O’Toole for instilling confidence in her.
“Larry was the first person to tell me I could earn a scholarship,” said Rainey. “My goal was to play Division 1 fastpitch. I wrote that down my freshmen year. If I write it down, I will work to get it done.”
She recalls taking pitching seriously around her 11th birthday when told her parents the gift she wanted was money for pitching lessons. She even did extra chores to earn dollars for extra lessons.
Those lessons and travel ball time with the Washington Ladyhawks and The Bat Company (West Linn, OR) have paid off.
Fast forward to today and she recently clocked 66 miles per hour. In addition to her fastball, she throws a rollover drop, a curve and a change. She is working on a rise ball.
Needless to say, ISU coaches are thrilled.
"Haley is an elite level pitcher who has faced top competition and has a (state) championship under her belt," ISU head coach Cristal Brown said. "She executes on the mound and in the classroom with great academics.”
The Coronavirus has not changed Rainey’s passion for softball. If anything, it has motivated her.
“I do not take softball for granted,” she said. “It makes practices more fun because now I know what it is like to not be allowed to (play). It has made me play every game like it could be my last because you never know.”
Rainey said she’s working out and pitching more in preparation for ISU.
“I also used this time to change my mindset. I want to go into ISU and start. I want to earn a spot because I love playing and I felt like I needed to find my reasons to work that hard and wake up every morning.
“My inspirational saying is, ‘What is your why?’ This means that I have my reason that I work so hard and I use that reason to motivate myself.”
Softball is her passion because it is something that has been consistent her whole life and it is a place where she fits in.
“I love using my energy for something positive and helping my community.,” said Rainey, who played volleyball as a freshman and ran cross country as a junior. She also captains Adna Knowledge Bowl Team and is scorekeeper for the school’s wrestling team.
Next stop is Pocatello, ID, home to ISU’s Bengals, a public research university with 8,000-plus students.
But first is the 2021 high school season and Rainey’s goal of winning another state title.
“It is the last chance I will get to wear my school's colors so I am going to have fun and be myself. I want that feeling again of a state title.
I wear my (state title ring) ring and want another one.”
And because of the Coronavirus she wants it more than ever for Adna.
“It’s been hard for our community,” she said. “If we could do this as a program, it would be a major boost for our community, faculty and everyone…a bit of normalcy.”
Rainey’s advice for younger kids who want to get to the next level?
“Do not short yourself and your goals,” she said. “Be confident in what you want and go for it with your whole heart. You only live once and you will only get one shot to do it so when people ask you, ‘what do you want to do?’ Be proud of your ambition because it can serve you well.”
True to her words, Rainey’s ambition has served her well.